The South Court at the Langley Events Centre is quiet. It’s a rare occasion during Bballnationals for a gym to be that way, but there’s an extended break between games and about half an hour until the next one starts.
Out of nowhere, the dribble of basketball, followed by footsteps, breaks the silence.
The Saskatchewan Girls Under-17 Provincial team is here. In waves of three to four, they enter. Pick a hoop and start to shoot. The gym is empty after all.
A few girls run over to the scorer’s table and all of a sudden, they’re scrambling around looking for something. What they’re looking for is a phone – but not because any thing has gone missing. No, the girls are trying to remember who on the team has an iPhone that still has a headphone jack. The girls want music and in short order censored edits of rap songs featuring artists such as Drake, Travis Scott and the Migos brings the gym alive. Now the girls can shoot around.
Wayne Morrison, the team’s head coach, watches from the sidelines. The trip to Bballnationals is what he calls a “tune up”. Bballnationals hosts primarily club teams, so the provincial team from Saskatchewan is unlike the rest in that way. The truth is, the Saskatchewan team is making two stops in their visit to B.C. – Langley for the Bballnationals and then Victoria for the Canada Basketball Under-17 National Championships.
“We’re taking this as a tune up, so we’ll be at our best at Nationals [in Victoria] so we’ll be at our best against provincial teams,” said Morrison.
The music that was playing earlier in the gym isn’t anymore, but the Saskatchewan Provincial team is. Their jerseys, a clean white with crisp, dark green lettering, are a treat on the eyes. Their opponents, in red, a Rock Elite team from Newfoundland, trail by just 5 points as the clock winds down indicating half time. By the end of the game, however, the girls in white are celebrating a hard-fought 65-49 win.
Saskatchewan then followed up that win with 76-56 victory over VK Basketball’s U-17 Red team to kick off Day 3 of Bballnationals. They’ve won all three of their games so far having blown out the Junior Vikes team 55-18. For a team like Saskatchewan’s it took some convincing to play in the Girls Under-17 Division.
“We had originally thought that the open division might be better for us, give us more competition. But we were kind of talked into U-17,” explained Morrison. “The U-17 club teams that are here, this is the highlight of their year, they’ve been working towards this, so we’ll see how it works out.”
Safe to say it’s been working out so far. Three days in and the team is yet to lose. Winning in Langley would have a positive impact on the team’s morale when they play in Victoria according to Morrison.
Still, the goal is just simply to get as many games in at Bballnationals. “You get to a tournament like this you want to play as many games as you can, you want to play the best teams that are here,” says Morrison.
“So, if we keep moving forward into the final, I’m sure the team we play in the final will be a very good team.”
Based on how they’ve done so far, it wouldn’t be crazy to think this Saskatchewan team can get there. Morrison knows how good his team is – “we’re athletic, and most of our girls will be playing in university or college somewhere,” he says.
Plus, the logic adds up; if you want to keep playing, you’ve got to keep winning and the girls from Saskatchewan might just do it. If they do, it’d make for a hell of a tune up.
By: Mohak Sood