Although my home and native land is also the birthplace of basketball, it must be said that the sport has not really taken off in the True North perhaps because, however Strong and Free it may be, it’s also on average 2 inches shorter than its neighbors to the South. While such an abundance of shortness poses no barrier to the Filipinos, who surely boast the highest number of basketball hoops per capita in the world, it must be said that they are rather farther away from the towering giants who dwell below the 49th parallel and, thus, less likely to be challenged to pickup games.
But we at TeenyManolo have found one town in the sub-Arctic lands which is positively consumed with basketball fever, and that town is Bathurst, New Brunswick. And why? Given the history, they have every reason to loathe the sport.
Eight teenage boys from Bathurst, N.B., will show the country what courage and perseverance look like when they walk onto the basketball court, ringed by cheering crowds, in Fredericton on Saturday.
A year ago, their high school and their small city were turned upside down when seven members of the Bathurst High Phantoms boys basketball squad were killed in a highway traffic accident.
The wife of their coach, Wayne Lord, also died when the team van collided with an oncoming truck on an icy road, as Lord was driving the players home from an evening game in January.
Bathurst High disbanded its boys basketball program, and Lord quit coaching, as he and the community coped with the tragedy.
In the fullness of time, the school hired a new coach and formed a new basketball team for the new school year, and resigned itself to competing in a lower league than the experienced team of past years.
And they won.
And won the Provincial Championship just yesterday, in fact.
…they surprised everyone, working their way into the Tier-2 provincial finals, and — despite the recent hospitalization of their new coach — to a resounding 82-50 win on Saturday over a brave group of boys from Campobello Island High, who faced the daunting task of playing a team almost willed toward victory by those who knew their tragic history.
“We did the impossible pretty much,” said 10th-Grade guard Alex Robichaud, who stood on the court after the game, marvelling at the lights of the TV cameras and the excited fans that circled around him on the court.
“I didn’t think we’d get this far. It means everything to have won.”
“Grief is an ongoing issue for all of us,” [Peggy Arseneau] said. “But we’ve kind of parked it in a place in our heart right now, because everybody’s rallying behind this team. The love and the pride in our team is just overwhelming.”
Arseneau and other Bathurst fans wore red t-shirts emblazoned with the sweater numbers of the seven players killed last year, along with the words: “Boys in Red . . . Never Forget.”