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Similkameen repeats as ANBT Women’s champion

Jade Montgomery-Waardenburg scores 18 and named player-of-the-game in 50-29 victory
Similkameen’s Jade Montgomery-Waardenburg drives upcourt during the Women’s Final of the All Native Basketball Tournament Feb. 17. (Phil Cornwall/Kids4Cameras, special to The Northern View)

The Similkameen Starbirds never wavered in their quest for a second straight title at the 2024 All Native Basketball Tournament.

From the beginning of the first quarter of the final against the Hesquiaht Descendants, it looked like the Starbirds were in control nearly doubling their opponents 13 - 7 by the end of 10 minutes. But the second quarter was all Hesquiaht Similkameen’s one-two punch of cousins Jasmine Montgomery-Reid and Jade Montgomery-Waardenburg fell flat allowing the Descendants offence to go on a 15-1 run for and take a 22 - 16 lead into the half.

“Really, we were getting wide-open shots, they just weren’t going in,” said Similkameen coach Peter Waardenburg. “So Jasmine, our star player, had a hard time getting going. I think that’s probably the adjustment from the other gym into this gymnasium.”

It wouldn’t get much easier for Montgomery-Reid in the second half, as the Descendants doubled up and boxed her out with their best defender.

But that just opened the door for Montgomery-Waardenburg and Madison Terbasket as the Starbirds shut out Hesquiaht in the third for a 30-22 lead after 20 minutes and never looked back adding onto the lead in the fourth for a 50-29 final.

Montgomery-Waardenburg put up 18 and was awarded player-of-the-game for the third time this week, solidifying a potential claim to tournament MVP.

But for her, it’s all about the team.

“Every time it gets better and better, because last year, I felt phenomenal,” she said. “It felt like we came together as a community, as sisters. And we pushed and we pushed, and we worked together. And that’s what we’re all about. We’re about team basketball and that’s what it means to be Similkameen. We’re mighty mighty Similkameen.”

Coach Waardenburg said the championship was a mission accomplished.

“I’m super impressed with our girls,” he said. “We came here with our mission to take care of business. And we learned over the years, we’ve been here, like, four or five years, so we learned last year how to do it right and we came back and got it done.”

While perhaps a disappointing finish for the Hesquiaht Descendants who came into the week unranked, their run to the Women’s final could hardly be called a Cinderella story.

In 2023, had they not run into the red-hot Starbirds early on, it might have been a different story last year. Relegated to the elimination bracket the Descendants faced a tough route of five games to weave their way to the final. Along the way, they came up against the Laxgalts’ap (Greenville) Aces in a tight game that could have gone either way. Laxgalts’ap was slightly better, though, knocking Hesquiaht out.

This year it was a different story for the Descendants, though, as they cruised through the winners bracket defeating the second-ranked Haisla Ladies and third-ranked Vancouver All My Relations before once again hitting the wall against the fast and agile squad from Similkameen in the first women’s semi-final on Thursday.

Sent down to the second semi-final, they awaited the winner of Vancouver and Laxgalts’ap in the morning game on Friday, which the Aces won. This year, Hesquiaht would not be denied as they handily advanced 74 - 51 to the championship game and another crack at the Starbirds.

Meanwhile, all week long, Similkameen led by the one-two punch Montgomery-Reid and Montgomery-Waardenburg, were proving why they were the defending champions. They easily knocked off Hazelton, Nuxalk and Laxgalts’ap by lopsided margins before squeaking into the final past Hesquiaht in a game that never more than a five-point margin between the two teams.

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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