Halifax Mariners back on top at CAF Basketball Nationals
By Ryan Melanson,
Nearly a decade after their last national championship, the Halifax Mariners men’s basketball team have finally reclaimed their place at the top of the CAF Basketball pyramid. The Mariners took down the CFB Esquimalt Tritons 88-72 in the gold-medal game on May 4 in front of the home crowd at 12 Wing Shearwater, wrapping up an exciting week of action on the court.
For Capt Nic Leger, who holds five regional championships with the Mariners, but had yet to win national gold, the victory was cathartic. He scored 35 points in the championship game and took home the finals and tournament MVP awards, but also heaped praise on his teammates and longtime head coach, PSP Halifax’s Kevin Miller. He said the team’s busy practice schedule through the year, including a number of local exhibition games, was critical.
“I think the key to victory was our team chemistry and discipline,” Capt Leger said.
“We knew where everyone was going to be and where they wanted the ball, we didn’t need to force anything. We let the game come to us on offense and just remained present and open to the opportunities. We were also the toughest team defensively.”
Capt Leger added how pleased he was to win gold in front of friends and family, with his wife and children sharing in the celebrations after supporting him through the busy week.
“CAF basketball was a significant factor in my decision to join the CAF and it’s a huge factor in why I stay in the CAF today. CAF basketball reinforces the military ethos and provides an incentive to remain in top physical condition year-round,” he said.
On the Esquimalt side, Lt(N) Owen Murphy, who led his team in scoring through the week and took home multiple Game MVP awards, said the Tritons were leaving Halifax with buoyed spirits despite coming up short in the gold-medal game. The team went undefeated through the round-robin portion, even handing Halifax their only loss of the week early on in a tight 86-84 game. They also battled adversity in the semi-finals, coming back from an 11-point deficit with 5:00 remaining to take down the Ottawa Nationals and move on to the finals.
“I’m super proud of the guys, honestly. We fought hard all week, we bought in, the camaraderie was there, and everyone did their piece,” he added.
PSP Staff at the 12 Wing Shearwater Fitness, Sports and Recreation Centre got rave reviews from across the country for their hosting efforts, with half-time entertainment, live streams with high-quality commentary and other bells and whistles through the week. Special shout outs went to Wally Buckoski (commentary), Matt MacKenzie (camerawork) and Mary Thompson (organizing duties). Due to pandemic restrictions and cancellations, this was the first CAF National Basketball Championship since 2019.
“When you do a job this well, don’t be surprised when you get asked again. That’s a warning,” joked CAF Basketball Patron Col Liam Doyle.
“After a four-year wait, we couldn’t have asked for a better tournament.”