Hesquiaht women finish second at All Native Basketball Tournament | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Hesquiaht women finish second at All Native Basketball Tournament

Prince Rupert, BC

The Hesquiaht Descendants ladies team made history at the 64th annual All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, B.C. on Feb. 11 to Feb. 18.

Captained by Mariah Charleson, the squad of nine players battled their way to the final game of the tournament, becoming the first-ever Hesquiaht team to make the top two.

Charleson professed a deep “Klecko Klecko” to all the supporters who sent messages and cheered them on throughout the weeklong event.

“What we represented is the style of basketball that we played in Nuu-chah-nulth territory,” Charleson said. “It’s hard, it’s gritty, it’s tough. We battle. We don’t have the height that some of these teams have, but we’ve managed to shut down teams far bigger than us just with outright hustle, grit and by never, ever giving up. That fight we have within ourselves; that’s Hesquiaht basketball. That’s Nuu-chah-nulth basketball.”

Hesquiaht beat New Aiyansh 70-47 in their first game, they took down Kitamaat 55-46 in game two, Vancouver fell 55-50 in game three, and game four was a heartbreaking 59-52 loss to Similkameen, which sent them to the losers bracket and semi-final against Greenville. Hesquiaht rallied to secure a 74-51 win against Greenville and a re-match against Similkameen.

Charleson said they had them in the first half, but “came out flat” in the second half. Similkameen would take the tournament win 50-29 from the Descendants.

“We played extremely talented teams the whole way through; not a single easy match-up the entire week. The only team we couldn’t get past was Similkameen,” said Charleson, who was named an All-Star for the entire tournament of 17 teams.

Teammate Skylene Patrick, 33, also picked up major hardware, earning Tournament All-Star and Best Defensive Player.  

“Growing up with my dad Tyson Touchie, he just always emphasized the importance of defense. It was really my goal to be a strong help side for my teammates and to hustle for the ball as much as possible. I got tied up in a lot of jump balls all weekend; just little tips and steals and being smart with my fouls,” said Patrick, a mother of three. 

Patrick was joined on the Hesquiaht bench with her mom Anita Charleson-Touchie and sister Jada Touchie.

“It was super meaningful to play with my mom and Jada,” she said. “We have a lot of feisty, aggressive Hesquiaht women. Everybody had bumps and bruises. Everybody had band aids. Everybody was willing to work really hard.”

Jada Touchie, 20, was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. 

“Making it to the final is a really big push for me to want to develop as a basketball player and train harder. We were so close,” said Touchie. “I am so thankful to be part of this team. There is a big history of basketball in our family. I grew up watching my older siblings play, my parents, and even my grandparents. I felt really proud to represent my late grandfather Con Charleson.”

To prepare for each game, the Descendants sang Hesquiaht songs in the changing room and gave thanks to their Ancestors and to the Creator every morning. Team rookie Brandis Lucas, 18, says it might have been that team spirit that gave them the edge.

“We have a group chat and someone would send a video of an eagle sitting outside their door or whatever. We took everything as a sign. Being that cultural and connected to the land, I want to say it definitely helped us make it that far,” said Lucas.

Touchie agreed.

“A lot of us are going through hard times and grieving, so we felt it was really important to ground each other and be connected culturally. We went to the water together and had dinner and had our smoked fish together. That was so comforting to feel that connection while we are so far from home. We did a really good job uplifting each other,” said Touchie.

While some of the players flew in and out of Terrace, most of the team drove to Port Hardy and took the 21-hour ferry ride to Prince Rupert for the event. Entry to the All Native Basketball Tournament is $1,000 per team and each player receives a per diem of $20 per day they stay in the competition.

“We have mothers away from their children, we’re taking time away from our jobs, so we’re not getting paid, so (the per diem) is a big help. And it’s a big, massive commitment just to have our nine players present the whole week,” said Charleson, adding that they will be back next year — even stronger.

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