Hazelton and Bella Bella clashed on Saturday at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre to contest the 2016 All Native Basketball Tournament Women’s final.
Bella Bella took home this year’s trophy, besting their opposition in a tight game 56-50 to take home their second straight women’s championship.
The athletes laid it all on the line in the final, diving after loose balls and putting their bodies at risk. They all really wanted to bring home the ‘W’ to their community.
Yvonne Campbell from Bella Bella spoke about what winning the tournament meant to her team and the Nation of Bella Bella.
“It means everything. I mean we fight to try to get to that final game, there’s a few of us who aren’t in shape this year, but we still came out on top because we fought so hard. That’s it, we’re just fighters,” she explained.
Hazelton jumped out to an early lead in the game, going up six points right away. Their pick-and-roll game was on point. This led to a first quarter lead for Hazelton 17-9.
Hazelton’s size inside created problems for Bella Bella as they dominated the boards early, opening up second chance opportunities. Bella Bella’s slashing and individual scoring kept them within 10 points, only taking about 10 seconds worth of shot clock each possession.
The defensive intensity in the game was ratcheted up by Bella Bella before the end of the half, and this paid immediate dividends, as they jumped on some turnovers, closing the gap in the score.
Another biproduct of this was that Bella Bella was getting to the stripe often, through penetration from their guards. The score was 30-25 Hazelton at the half.
“Our team kept making our baskets in the second half, in the first half Hazelton was taking advantage of our defence, but in the second half we played really tough defence,” Campbell added.
Bella Bella continued their momentum from the last couple minutes in the first half and tied the game up thanks to a couple early buckets.
Brittany Simpson from Hazelton showed her strong inside play, but was matched by Montgomery Reid from Bella Bella who seemed to collect a defensive rebound on every offensive possession for Hazelton. The athletes were still all over the floor diving after loose balls.
There were four jump balls in one minute, leading to a deadlocked score after three quarters, 37-37. Hazelton led by as many as four points in the fourth, but Reid answered right back for Bella Bella as she’s done all game, by crowding the Hazelton defenders inside, turning for easy buckets. Entry passes made this possible by Bella Bella’s guards.
Even though Hazelton was in the bonus early in the half, Bella Bella was able to hold them off by not fouling, and hitting clutch shots down the stretch. Reid nailed a huge three-pointer, giving Bella Bella a two-point lead with two minutes left. Women’s Division MVP Shayla Schooner hit two free throws later to extend their lead to six.
Bella Bella completed the comeback, winning 56-50. Schooner was player of the game to boot. It was an excellent exhibition of women’s basketball, and as always the atmosphere created by passionate fans, friends, and family, no doubt will not be forgotten by the players.