In the city that boasts "We the North" for its basketball team, Mount Currie's Quinn Sam-Finlay helped Team B.C. defend the north from a couple potential American threats.
At the North American Indigenous Games, B.C. posted a pristine 6-0 record in the U16 men's tournament in Toronto.
B.C. blazed through round-robin play at 4-0 before defeating Quebec's Eastern Door and the North 82-77 in the semifinal, and previously undefeated Wisconsin 80-63 in the championship game on July 22.
The power forward, who has a knack for rebounding, also chipped in on the scoreboard by averaging nine points a game during round-robin play.
"It was a lot of fun. It was the best experience of my life so far," Sam-Finlay said. "Being in the gym for the final game was super crazy because it was loud in there with all the people cheering for us."
B.C.'s defensive effort was key, especially in the final, stifling a Wisconsin squad that had twice topped 100 points. Sam-Finlay also noted that doing their best to quiet the Americans' cheering section was key.
"People were saying they had the loudest fans, so it was crazy. There were a lot of people in the gym and it was really loud. We couldn't hear our coaches talking to us on the bench," Sam-Finlay said.
The 15-year-old was honoured to be selected as one of 10 athletes to make the team after passing through tryouts in Vancouver and Kamloops. After being selected, Sam-Finlay and the rest of the squad had a few practice sessions before heading east to compete. Though Sam-Finlay hadn't been on a team with any of his teammates before, he knew a few of them from the basketball community.
"There was a junior native tournament on spring break and I met a few of them (then)," the Pemberton Secondary School student noted.
Even if he didn't know many of them previously, Sam-Finlay said the team's sense of camaraderie was quickly established with all the players supporting the others when needed.
"Keeping our teammates up (was important). If they did something that wasn't that good, just talking to them and saying 'Forget about it, focus on the next play,'" he said.
Head coach Dave Lafontaine raved about Sam-Finlay's play, describing him as a difference-maker all over the court, and someone who proved himself to be built for games just like the championship showdown.
"Quinn, for me, was just a tenacious fighter on the court. He led our team in offensive rebounds, he defended like crazy and had great court vision," Lafontaine said. "In the last game, we played Wisconsin, and they're a team that pressed defensively. It was very important to move the ball quickly and effectively. Quinn started that game and he did a great job."
The medal was also important in the grand scheme of the Games as B.C. won the overall team title for the second consecutive NAIG after claiming it at the 2014 Games in Regina, Sask. B.C. won 176 medals overall, including 65 gold, with Saskatchewan claiming a dozen fewer to finish in second.