Ahousaht U13 boys win Junior All Native tourney with 6-0 record | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Ahousaht U13 boys win Junior All Native tourney with 6-0 record

Terrace, BC

Bulldozers. Untouchables. The 6-0 Team.

Coach Luke Swan Jr. and his U13 Ahousaht Guardians boys basketball team made the long journey home from Nisga’a North, Terrace, B.C. and the 2024 Junior All Native Tournament as undefeated champions.

“Last year we placed third and I think that lit a spark under their feet to work hard,” said Swan Jr. “As soon as September came around and we were able to get gym spots, everybody was right into tune for practice and getting into shape.”

“Our focus was being able to run for a long time,” continued the coach. “It was all running. Even right down to the last wire, we were running in the water, running on the beach, rain or shine, running a couple steep hills.”

And while the JANT 2024 Championship banner will add sparkle to the rafters of the Maaqtusiis Gymnasium, it might be winning the title of Most Sportsmanlike Team that emulates.

“The Ahousaht way is always with ʔiisaak, you know respect. That’s what we taught in the gym too,” said Swan Jr. “It’s bigger than basketball. The main thing is giving them that opportunity to keep building on their young lives, giving them new tools, giving them new friends and to learn all the time from their mistakes.”

The young Ahousaht Guardians bested a field of 24 teams, handily outscoring each opponent en route to a blowout 66-37 final game against Greenville, one of the host nations.

“I can go on all day and brag about these boys and how they did as a team and individuals, but the biggest thing being respect. They played with all the teachings from home and practice, like helping each other up whether it’s your opponent or teammate that falls,” said Swan Jr.

Ahousaht member Devin Robinson doubled back to northern B.C. for the JANT as coach for the U13 Girls Snuneymuxw Islanders, a mostly Ahousaht squad based out of Nanaimo. A month earlier, Robinson went to Prince Rupert for the All Native Tournament, representing Ahousaht’s intermediate boys team. This time around, his young Snuneymuxw girls placed third overall and also earned the accolade of Most Sportsmanlike.

“That was a big one. The girls didn’t play dirty. They took the punches without retaliating,” said Robinson, whose daughters Taimani, 11, and Shoni, 9, play on the squad.

“I wish I did this a little bit sooner. I’m just giving back to our youth because our dad did it for us,” said Robinson. “Just allowing these kids to see all this, it fills my heart enough to see the smiles on their faces. After a couple years, they get to know one another and make friends. It’s something they all look forward to.”

The U17 Girls Tseshaht Pride finished second, falling only to defending champs Bella Coola. Coach Joe Charleson says they played with “no fear” and leading up to the final, the girls won four games over the span of two days.

“Defense got us there,” he said. “But (Bella Coola) had a player that went off on us and was scoring pretty much at will. It was a slow pace to that final because everybody was tired. It was a long week.”

The Pride was another Nuu-chah-nulth troop to take home the Most Sportsmanlike Award for their division.

“We didn’t complain about fouls. I spent half my time on the sidelines yelling at them not to reach on defense,” said Charleson. “There’s a number of other factors, but the girls were always respectful of other players that they played against.”

For individual awards, Jaiden Knighton and Genaveve Pierre were named All-Stars, Knighton also claimed Ms. Hustle and Kionah Williams won Most Promising Player.

For the Ahousaht Guardians, tournament MVP went to Louie Thomas, All-Stars went to Louis Frank and Vaughn Robinson, Jordan Francis claimed Most Inspirational Player and Ben Charlie brought back the award for Most Sportsmanlike Player.

On March 27 the community of Ahousaht gathered for a meal in the gym to celebrate the young basketball champions.

“Thanks to everybody for their support, and to all the people here not just in Ahousaht, but from all over that supported our teams, getting them to Terrace,” said Swan Jr. “Going forward, part of our goal is to build up the programs so nobody gets left behind. I spend so much time on council and this is 100-times more rewarding when you can actually be part of change in our youth’s lives.”

A quick, couple days after returning home, Swan Jr. says he was already getting messages from all the boys asking, ‘Are we going to the gym at five?’

“We will continue through the summer,” he assured. 

There were 11 teams representing Nuu-chah-nulth and Maa-nulth at the 2024 JANT with seven teams coming from Vancouver Island’s west coast. Kelowna will host the tournament next year. 

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