Riders visit first annual Hoop Jam basketball tournament held in Canora

The first annual Hoop Jam basketball tournament was held at the Canora Composite School (CCS) on August 25 to 26.

Ken Keyes, program co-ordinator, said the tournament is set up to have athletes seen by scouts and hopefully get to college through basketball.

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The tournament is for boys and girls going into grades 8 to 12, but for this year, there was only a boys tournament due to the lack of girls involved.

The four-team, double knockout tournament featured teams from Norquay, Preeceville, Melville, and Canora.

Norquay defeated Preeceville 58 to 45 in the final game to take the championship.

Keyes said he ran an open gym for interested players throughout the summer at Preeceville School twice a week, giving them a place to learn and progress in basketball.

He said the three Canora players who played in the tournament, Matthew Rock, Hudson Bailey and Carson Ostafie, should all be proud of the way they played.

“Several of the Canora senior boys had to back out at the last minute, which meant the three Canora ninth graders had to pick up two other ninth graders from another school,” said Keyes. “This meant they had the youngest team in the tournament, but the still played extremely well. The team lost its first two games and was eliminated. This doesn't reflect how well they will do in the coming year, because in my opinion they will do awesome.”

Keyes said a highlight of the tournament was the appearance of two Saskatchewan Roughriders players on August 26 for the final game: Makana Henry, defensive tackle (#74) and Marcell Young, defensive back.

Upon their arrival at CCS, Henry and Young quickly organized a fun foosball tournament with the members of Canora air cadets, who served food during Hoop Jam.

The two Riders signed autographs and gave an inspirational speech before the final game between Norquay and Preeceville, encouraging the players to, “respect everything given to you, including your support groups, your community, the organizers, the officials, your teammates, your opponents, your parents, and yourself with the talents you have. It doesn’t matter where you came from or who you are, we all have to the ability to make a positive difference each and everyday of our lives. Today you get a chance to compete and perform your best. Play hard and have fun.”

Keyes was grateful for the support of Canora Leisure Services, the Good Spirit School Division and CCS in helping make Hoop Jam a success.

“I am looking forward to next year because this event will only get bigger and better.”