Fort Albany girls basketball makes north-eastern finals
The Fort Albany senior girls basketball team’s impressive run to the northeastern Ontario high school finals is Wawatay’s sports story of the year.
“It was a good year, we learned a lot,” said Peetabeck Academy coach Justin Sackaney. “The girls learned that it doesn’t matter who they face, they can play hard and do the things we’ve taught them and be successful.”
The first team from a fly-in community to compete in the northeastern Ontario high school senior girls basketball tournament, Peetabeck lost to defending champion Kapuskasing District High School by 14 points in the finals.
“We left with our heads held high,” Sackaney said. “We played hard, we just lost to a better team.”
Peetabeck reached the finals by beating O’Gorman High School by four points in a close, back and forth semi-finals game, after going unbeaten in regular league games with a 6-0 record and winning its division.
Sackaney is looking forward to next year, as all but one of his players will be back on next year’s team. Seven of the nine players were actually junior-aged players.
Fort Albany’s path to the finals started about six years ago when Sackaney began holding basketball practices every day after school. Although only three or four students would show up over the first two years, Sackaney noticed a change in the third year when the students began to take him seriously as a coach and more students began practicing.
“There were many days when I was walking home from the gym when I’d ask myself, why am I doing this?” Sackaney said. “But I just kept going. And now I know it takes awhile to get youth to listen to you, to get them to trust you.”
Roseanne Knapaysweet, Fort Albany’s 17-year-old point guard, said it felt great to show the other teams what they have.
“I don’t know where we would be if Justin wasn’t here today,” Knapaysweet said. “He’s the one who showed us how to play. He had faith in us. It feels like he made a change in our lives.”
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