Year after tragedy, Bathurst basketball team triumphs
Published Saturday, February 21, 2009 11:23PM EST
A year after a highway crash killed seven of their players, a New Brunswick boy's basketball team found a way to turn tragedy into triumph.
In front of a crowd of several hundred, the Bathurst High School Phantoms defeated the Campobello Vikings 82-50 to take home the provincial AA championship Saturday.
"We did the impossible pretty much," Bathurst basketball player Alex Robichaud told CTV Atlantic.
Seven players and the wife of a former coach were killed in January 2008 when their van swerved into the path of a transport truck in poor highway conditions as they travelled back from a road game.
The crash devastated the small northern N.B. town and touched the hearts of many around the globe.
"It really has been joyful to watch and experience this," John McLaughlin, superintendent of the Bathurst School District, told CTV Newsnet.
"They lost some pretty good friends and I'm sure they were playing for them."
Forward Bradd Arseneau, who survived the crash and was the only returning player, scored 25 points in the game and wore the number 7 in honour of his late friend Nathan Cleland.
Arseneau, who was named the game's MVP, declined to be interviewed after the game.
But his mother, Peggy O'Neil-Arseneau told The Canadian Press, "I've never seen him play any better."
"The joy . . . and the love in this room is just overwhelming," she told CTV Atlantic during the game.
The team suffered another setback this season when head coach Alan Doucet collapsed during a pratice and was rushed to hospital. He was in Montreal for tests and missed the final game.
Assistant coach Brad McLellan said he was surprised by his team Saturday.
"I didn't expect to get out in front quite like that early. ... Campobello is a hell of a team and they battled hard, but our kids were ready to play," he said.
After winning, Bathurst players stayed on the court for a long time, taking in every moment of their unlikely victory. They cut down both nets before retiring to the locker room.
"It's a huge deal, coming back from that accident," said forward Brad States. "Obviously, it's huge."
With a report from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron