Francis Frank coaches the Lady Warriors in the upcoming All Native junior basketball tournament.
From March 15 to March 21 about 50 teams are expected in Port Alberni to participate in the Junior Boys and Girls All Native Provincial Basketball Tournament.
Playing host to the tournament is Ahousaht, with the help of a variety of other Nuu-chah-nulth nations. Local teams will also compete. The line up on the girls’ side is impressive.
It will be the Nuu-chah-nulth Lady Warriors fifth time participating in the provincials. Francis Frank coaches both the Lady Warriors and the NCN Young Gunz Boys team.
“I thought I would become involved in coaching as I have a daughter, Tabatha, who was very interested in basketball and she was playing for the Ucluelet Secondary School. It is in my teachings to pass on and share the knowledge that I have and I could not just sit back and watch,” he said of his early involvement with basketball in the area.
Frank started a Nuu-chah-nulth girl’s team and has been coaching them since.
“I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to play and it was important for me to become involved. Sports, recreation and culture, in my opinion, should be an integral part of our youth as it is a great tool that helps to create character and it also develops good leadership,” Frank said.
The Lady Warriors are a small team and will depend on speed and defense in the tournament. Justine Frank is one of the key players and is a solid threat to score each game. Frank is the daughter of Denise Amos and Willie Frank.
Other players that will be counted on to deliver are Mercedes Brown, Monica Sam, Brittany Amos and Marlene Dick, who round out the starting five.
Frank said this year the team has had the luxury of getting some gym time so they could practice, and this has led to a marked improvement, especially in their defensive play.
“The players I have all love the game and they love having fun on the court. It also is a bonus that they all seem to get along with each other,” Frank said.
Frank would like to see the Lady Warriors at least match their results from last year’s provincials in Kamloops where they won three games and lost two.
The competition he’s speculating will be the top two seeds from the Island—Ahousaht and Sasiin. Others may include the defending champions from Bella Coola and the Kitamaat team.
“All we have to do is do our best and hope that the girls rise to the occasion,” said Frank said.
The host Ahousaht Blazerz girls’ team is hoping results from this year’s tournament will be an improvement over last. Coach Luke Swan had high expectations the, but the team was knocked out early in the tournament. Swan hopes that his returning players have learned a few lessons since then.
Swan has been coaching the Blazerz for four years.
“This year it is going to be quite a change for our team, as we lost five players from last year’s team. This year we have had to have other players step up and fill the void from last year and I am happy with our team’s progress,” he said.
Swan said he believes this is the Ahousaht girls’ team’s eighteenth year at the All Native. Ahousaht hosted three times.
The Blazerz will depend heavily on their overall defensive skills, one of his teams strengths, said Swan.
“We will depend heavily on Chantelle Dick and Sabrina Williams, who set up our pressure defense, especially our press. Toni Schutte also will be a key player as she is a very good defensive player who fits in well with our team.”
Taralyn Duncan will also be counted on to lead the Blazerz. Duncan has been playing for the Blazerz since 2003 and is a solid all-round player. Schutte is a player that excelled playing with the Alberni Armada Senior girls’ team and is a quality player.
“Toni Schutte is a very good all-round player who is a solid ball handler and a very good passer who excels in her defensive abilities as she has a nose for the ball,” said Swan.
Swan’s goal is to make it to the final day of competition and believes that if the Blazerz play up to their abilities that they have a chance to make it to the finals.
“The competition, however, will be tough as the defending champions from Bella Coola, Kitamaat, Similkameen from the Okanogan, and Canyon City may also be in the hunt to make the finals and win,” said Swan.
“I especially would like to take this time to thank all of the parents and our community of Ahousaht for all of their support for the Blazerz. Without their support it may not have been possible for the girls to play basketball. Kleco, kleco!” said Swan.
He has been a full-time student at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo and has been living away from home for the last seven months.
The Ittattsoo Sasinn team, who placed third at last year’s provincials, is hoping for another good showing. They have won the championship on two occasions out of the last three years and once again have high expectations to make it to the final day.
Coach Tyson Touchie is optimistic that his players have the experience to make a run, but admits it will be tough as Sasinn no longer has Skylene Touchie.
Tyson believes that Sasinn might be an underdog team and actually likes it this way as they will not have any pressure.
Touchie will rely on star player Raylene McReath to lead the way for the Sasinn team.
“Raylene is now our leader on the floor. She is a very complete player as she is a hustler and has great determination and heart. A major strength Raylene has is that she can and has had to play every position on the team so she is very versatile,” said Touchie.
Along with McReath, Touchie said that Nicole Botting and Sabrina Campbell will be heavily relied on to score.
“If these three players are able to score then this usually means that we do pretty well as a team,” said Touchie. Savanah George and Shaeleane Little round out his starting five.
“Little is a very quick guard who is very athletic, however, a key to her success and ultimately ours is that she needs to be disciplined and stay out of foul trouble,” said Touchie.
“It all starts by believing in yourself first, as one needs to be confident. You then must believe in your teammates,” Touchie said.
Touchie believes that the defending champions from Bella Coola will be one of the teams to beat. Kitamaat, the Friendship House from Prince Rupert, host Ahousaht Blazerz and the young team from the Okanagan will be tough teams to contend with.
Touchie has worked hard with Sasinn and is hoping that all the preparations for the team will pay off.
Touchie will have double duties as he coaches the Ucluelet Boys team as well.
On the girls’ side, other Nuu-chah-nulth teams will compete, including Ahousaht Stars, Ditidaht, Nootka Rebels, Tla-o-qui-aht Queens and Tseshaht.
By Jack F. Little