Osoyoos Indian Band member Laatya James (left) participated in rifle shooting at the North American Indigenous Games. Submitted photo

Penticton athletes bringing home medals from Indigenous Games

The Okanagan Nation Alliance sent 40 athletes to the North American Indigenous Games

Penticton Indian Band member William Casmir-Eneas helped Team B.C. go undefeated, earning a gold medal, at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto.

“It’s pretty amazing, it is probably the biggest moment of my basketball career so far,” said Casmir-Eneas, who also plays basketball for the Princess Margaret Secondary School Mustangs.

After holding a perfect record through the preliminary rounds, Team B.C. defeated Team Eastern Door 82-77 in the semifinal on Friday which sent them to the gold medal game later that day.

Team B.C. continued to dominate on the court, beating Wisconsin in the finals 80-63. B.C. led at the half 48-28 and never looked back.

“We just played an awesome defensive game. They couldn’t do anything to stop us with the ball and we ran more than them,” said Casmir-Eneas.

Related: Syilx sending nearly 40 athletes to NAIG

Holding a 20 point lead for most of the game, the other team decided to stop the clock with 15 seconds left and concede the medal.

“They knew they weren’t going to catch us so they just called the game. The first thing I did was scream because I was so happy then I went to give the other players a hug,” said Casmir-Eneas, who had several family members there cheering on the team.

“I wore my medal all night and now today I am still wearing it.”

Standing at 6’4 Casmir-Eneas, one of the tallest basketball players at the Games for his age group, said he posted up 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“This is the best game we played as a team, we peaked at the exact right time — we’re very proud of these boys,” said head coach David Lafontaine, who is from Kelowna.

“From my perspective as the head coach, Will saved his best game for the championship. He completely dominated the paint area with 10 blocks. His defence turned into offence immediately. I am very proud of his play all week.”

Enroute to their gold medal, Team B.C. defeated Alberta, Minnesota, Manitoba and the Yukon before heading to the semifinals.

Penticton Indian Band member Meadow Arcand-Squakin was part of a historic moment, winning a bronze medal with the U19 Team B.C. female box lacrosse team at the North American Indigenous Games. It was the first time the sport was offered to females to compete at the Games.

Team B.C. met Saskatchewan in the bronze medal match, a team they had handily defeated in the preliminary rounds 13-4. This time with a medal on the line, Team B.C. knew they had to keep the pressure on Saskatchewan the entire game. It is exactly what they did marching to a 10-3 victory.

“The team came out and played with full hearts and big smiles,” said head coach Savanna Smith. “Our goal was to teach the players and grow their abilities as leaders. All the staff involved in their journey couldn’t be prouder of the team’s accomplishment.”

In the preliminary rounds at the Games, B.C. held a record of two wins and three losses, but bounced back to win the bronze medal.

Oliver’s Laatya James missed out on a bronze medal in rifle shooting by 130 points, placing fifth overall. She was fourth in under-19 prone, three points away from bronze in that event. In archery, OIB members Brooke Tanner and William Hall finished fifth in compound.

The NAIG, held in Toronto from July 16 to 22, had more than 5,000 participants competing in 14 sports. This included 40 athletes from the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Team B.C. won the overall medal count with 65 gold, 57 silver and 54 bronze. This was the second time B.C. has won the overall team title at the NAIG.

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