Nuu-chah-nulth teams capture medals at Junior All Native Basketball Tournament

Sam Laskaris, March 27, 2019

The Tseshaht Pride placed second in its under-13 category and fifth in the under-17 division at this year's Junior All Native Basketball Tournament. (photo supplied by Leisa Hassall)

Kitimat. BC — 

A pair of Nuu-chah-nulth squads returned home with medals from this year’s Junior All Native Basketball Tournament.

The Tseshaht Pride girls’ under-13 club captured the silver medal in its division. And the Hesquiaht Storm, silver medallists in the girls’ under-17 category a year ago, settled for the bronze this time around.

The tournament concluded this past Friday (March 22). The Haisla Nation hosted this year’s event, which attracted 84 entrants. Matches were held in Kitimat and Kitamaat Village.

The Junior All Native Basketball Tournament traditionally features Indigenous clubs, both female and male, from across British Columbia competing in under-13 and under-17 age groupings.

The Pride was able to improve upon their bronze-medal finish at the 2018 tourney. The Tseshaht club was downed 27-17 by the host Haisla side in its championship final.

“Both teams put up an amazing defensive fight,” said Leisa Hassall, the Pride’s head coach.

The Tseshaht squad was able to advance to the tournament’s gold-medal match despite having to make some alterations to its strategies upon arriving at the event.

“Tseshaht Pride has been playing a zone defence for three seasons in a row,” Hassall said. “We also teach a full court press. At the coaches meeting, it was announced that a press and zone defence were not permitted in the u-13 division. Our girls had to adjust very quickly.”

Hassall added her side was leading at halftime in its gold-medal contest.

“In the end our shots were just not going in,” she said. “It was a tough loss but Tseshaht Pride took the loss as a learning experience and are more eager to bring their game to Kelowna in 2020.”

The Pride won its first four matches at the tournament to advance to its championship final.

For starters, it registered a convincing 58-8 triumph over the Rupert Rebels. That was followed by a 38-30 victory over Port Simpson.

Lopsided wins over Anspayaxw and then against TLKumchEEn then propelled the Pride into the championship final.

Besides some second-half shooting woes, Hassall said some other factors also contributed to her team’s loss in the final.

While the Pride played its first four tournament games in smaller venues, the gold-medal outing was held in a larger gym. And against the host Haisla entry, Tseshaht faced an opponent that featured a roster with some players older than what the club battled against earlier in the tournament.

The majority of the players on the Tseshaht under-13 roster have used up their eligibility in this division and will be moving to suit up for the Pride under-17 club next season.

For the first time, Tseshaht also entered a club in the girls’ under-17 grouping this year. This team exceeded expectations by winning its first three matches. The Pride then suffered its first loss at the tourney as it was defeated by Greenville, the 2018 champs. Tseshaht also lost its next game against Skidegate. But the Pride ended up tied for fifth in the under-17 division.

“I’m very happy with that finish,” said Tseshaht’s head coach Joe Charleson, adding he was seeking a Top 10 finish for the club’s tournament debut.

When their schedules allowed, several of the players on the Pride under-13 team also suited up for Tseshaht’s under-17 club. Jennifer Taylor of the Pride's under-13 squad was named an All-Star in the tournament, and awarded as the Most Inspirational Player, according to the host Haisla Nation.

As for the Hesquiaht Storm, it was able to pick up a medal once again in the girls’ under-17 grouping, finishing the tournament with six wins and one loss over four days.