This year the Tseshaht will be sending two girls teams to the Junior All-Native Basketball Tournament in Kitimat. (Facebook photo)
Members of the Tseshaht Pride are not only looking to bring back some more hardware but also improve upon their 2018 performance at the Junior All-Native Basketball Tournament.
A year ago the Pride captured the bronze medal in the girls’ under-13 division of the prestigious tournament, which attracts Indigenous squads from across the province.
A total of 84 teams will be participating in this year’s event, which begins this coming Monday and continues until Mar. 22. The Haisla Nation is hosting this year’s tournament in Kitimat and Kitamaat Village.
Tseshaht Pride is also entering a squad in the girls’ under-17 category. The tournament will include boys’ under-13 and under-17 groupings.
Joe Charleson will share the coaching duties of both the Tseshaht girls’ under-13 and under-17 clubs with Leisa Hassall.
While this is expected to be a learning experience for the under-17 Pride entry which is making its debut at the tournament, Charleson said Tseshaht’s under-13 club has lofty expectations.
“We’re really high on them being in the final game this year,” Charleson said.
The Pride teams, who practice together, will have a considerable lengthy journey just to get to this year’s tournament. A year ago the event was held in Vancouver. As for the 2019 tourney, team members will start off with about a five-hour drive to Port Hardy. That will be followed by a 20-hour boat ride to Prince Rupert. And then another three-hour drive will be required to reach Kitimat.
Team members are leaving Saturday.
A year ago the Pride’s under-13 girls roster featured eight players. Five of those individuals are back. Five new players have also been added to the team’s lineup.
“We as coaches hope for a finals appearance this team around as the team skill level we feel is higher than last year,” Charleson said.
Fifteen clubs will be vying for the title in the girls’ under-13 grouping. Meanwhile, there will be 22 entrants in the girls’ under-17 division.
“My hope for them is that they get a top 10 finish,” Charleson said of the older Pride team.
Tseshaht’s under-17 team has only a half dozen regulars. But at times it will be bolstered by players from the Pride under-13 squad.
“Some girls will play both divisions when game times aren’t conflicting,” Charleson said.
The under-13 Pride team will be led by shooting guard Jennifer Dick, who is in her third year with the team.
Dick and her teammates lost all three of their matches at the 2017 tournament. En route to their third-place finish a year ago the club won four out of its five contests.
Charleson said all team members will be contributing this time around.
“It’s going to be a well-rounded under-13 team and not just Jennifer,” he said. “Anybody can score and play defence. We’ve trained them very well.”
Other team members are Jennifer Taylor, Natalie Clappis, Destiny Martin, Abby Little, Neve Watts, Milia Nelson, Jayla Sabbas, Naimah Robinson and Timmea Williams.
Meanwhile, regulars on the under-17 Pride roster are sisters Arianna and Janelle Johnson-Sabbas, Trinity Williams, Adrianna Watts, Jayme Paul and Lindsay Frank.
Robyn Samuel serves as the manager of the teams.
A number of other Nuu-chah-nulth clubs will also be participating in the tournament.
Those taking part in the girls’ under-17 division includes the Hesquiaht Storm, NCN Lady Warriors and Ahousaht Mystics.
The boys’ under-13 category will include the Ahousaht Wolfpack.
And the boys’ under-17 grouping features the Tseshaht Wolves, Maaqtusis Magic, NCN Young Gunz, Snuneymuxw Native Sons and Port Alberni Warriors.
So far this season the Tseshaht Pride under-13 girls team has played in just one tournament. It placed second at a four-team event in Port Alberni held in January.
But Charleson believes all team members will be in game shape and ready to challenge for some hardware at the tournament as they also play on their respective school teams.