(Edmonton, Alta.) Saskatchewan leveraged their speed and finesse to outmaneuver their opponent in the gold medal final of the 2014 Junior National Championship Sunday at the Saville Community Centre in Edmonton winning 62-61 and handing Quebec their first loss since 2007. As a result Saskatchewan will be the top seeded team heading into the 2015 Canada Games, and the three-time defending Canada Games Gold Medalist from Quebec will have to settle for the second spot.
Saskatchewan set the tone early by using their speed to aggressively drive the basket and dish the ball around down low. Their strategy allowed them to benefit from several uncontested layups in the early onset of the game. They also kept the pressure on their opponents by making good on their trips to free-throw line when Quebec’s defense took fouls while they tried to prevent their opponent from penetrating.
“The athletes have worked so hard over the last few years to get this point and they deserve a lot of credit. We proved, especially at the beginning of the game, that we are the team that other people have to compete with, and that not many teams can compete with our size and speed and how many weapons we have, “ said Team Saskatchewan Head Coach Katie Miyazaki.
It didn’t take Saskatchewan’s Nik Goncin long to make an impact scoring his first basket with the game just moments old. He looked cool as cucumber swooshing a three-pointer just under the two-minute mark of the first quarter to put his team ahead 14-5. By the midpoint break he led the game in all offensive categories racking up 20 points, seven rebounds, and six assists to help his team stretch their lead to 44-29 through the first 20 minutes of play.
“It was closer than I would have liked it to be in the end, but that makes it all the more rewarding that we were able to hang in there and get the win”
“Saskatchewan has never been in this position before where we are no longer the underdog going into Canada Games. It is a great feeling. And I know everyone is going to remember this feeling for a long time. Quebec played a great game and put up a great fight. It was closer than I would have liked it to be in the end, but that makes it all the more rewarding that we were able to hang in there and get the win,” said Goncin, the tournament’s most valuable male player.
Quebec demonstrated the composure and resiliency of a team that has won three consecutive Junior East Championships, and who entered the tournament as the reigning Junior Nationals Championship, in the fourth quarter of the game when they found their grove and tantalized spectators with a remarkable comeback effort. They put the brakes on Saskatchewan’s offense and limited them to just two points in the final ten minutes of play. They ensured the game came down to the wire with a clutch three-pointer by Benjamin Palmer at the 2:16 mark of the final frame that brought Quebec within three points (62-59). (He would finish with a game-high 27 points, and was later named to the tournament all-star team).
Quebec had possession of the ball in Alberta’s end with just four seconds remaining in the game but ultimately the Saskatchewan team held their ground and secured the victory.
Goncin tallied 26 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists in the game for Saskatchewan. Following the game he was named the tournaments most valuable player. He finished first in tournament scoring averaging 37.3 points per game, third in tournament rebounding averaging 10 rebounds per game, third in tournament assists averaging 4.8 assists per game, and first in steals averaging 3.7 per game.
Palmer finished with a game-high 27 points and was named to the tournament all-star team.
Bronze Medal Game – Alberta 59 vs BC 37
Team Alberta defeated BC 59-37 in the bronze medal final much to the delight of the hometown crowd. They finish with a record of three wins and two losses and will be ranked third at the 2015 Canada Games.
Ben Moronchuk led all players with 20 points, while Braden Doll and Arinn Young both tallied 17 points. Doll also matched a game-high with 11 rebounds to claim a double-double. Alberta’s Allie Haak led all players with a game-high seven assists.
“I am extremely proud of this this group. Thinking about how far we have come and earning the bronze medal today shows us that all of the little things that we are doing right are starting to pay off for us. We still have nine months to go until Canada Games and we will continue to build on this and ensure we are a medal contender in 2015,” said Alberta Head Coach Darrell Nordell.
“It felt really great to be able to win the bronze medal here in Alberta and the fact that it was in front of family and friends made it that much more special. It shows that going into Canada Games that we are one of the teams to beat and will be in the hunt for Gold,” said Young.
BC ends the tournament with a record of two wins and three losses and heads into the 2015 Canada Games in the fourth seed. Jack Kosterman scored a team-high 15 points and had six rebounds in the bronze medal game for BC. Avril Harris captured a double-double of his own with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
1st – Saskatchewan
2nd – Quebec
3rd – Alberta
4th – British Columbia
5th – Ontario
6th – New Brunswick
MVP and All-Stars
MVP (Male) – Nik Goncin (Saskatchewan)
MVP (Female – Arinn Young (Alberta)
All-star – Benjamin Palmer (Quebec)
All-star – Braden Doll (Alberta)
All-star – Elodie Tessier (Quebec)
All-star – Vincent Dallaire (Quebec)
All-star – Aidan Love (BC)
Video of all games are archived at www.sportscanada.tv.
About Team Alberta
Team Alberta won gold the first time wheelchair basketball was featured at the Canada Games in 1995. Most recently they were the youngest team to compete at the 2011 Canada Games were they finished eighth. Former program athletes including Chad Jassman and Tara Feser, as well as Ross Norton and Karla Tritten (now assistant coaches with Team Alberta) have gone on to win Paralympic and World Championship gold medals with the Senior National Teams.
About the Alberta Northern Lights Wheelchair Basketball Society
(ANL) is a registered charity that provides wheelchair basketball programming and HiLights school programs to Northern and Central Alberta. Founded in 1976, the Alberta Northern Lights have been world leaders in the development of wheelchair basketball and its athletes – both at the recreational and elite levels.
About Wheelchair Basketball Canada
Wheelchair Basketball Canada is the national sports governing body responsible for the organization of wheelchair basketball in Canada. It is a non-profit, charitable organization that is the Canadian member to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF).
Wheelchair basketball is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, competitive sport that has emerged as one of the most competitive and athletic sports played at the Paralympic Games. Our senior national teams are held in high esteem around the world for the elite skill and control that placed them on the podium with a combined six gold, one silver, and one bronze medal in the last six Paralympic Games.