A torrid start by the Bella Bella women’s team against New Aiyansh paced the squad to a 64-50 victory on Saturday, claiming the All Native Qualifying tournament title in the process.
An 11-2 run got the red-hot Bella Bella women going early with the starting five of Yvonne Campbell, Jaylyn Lucas, Denise White, Shayla Schooner and Tracey Robinson dominating ball possession early.
And just like the Intermediate Metlakatla Alaska group in the game before them, they never gave up that lead.
“We played kind of flat [against Kamloops in the semi-finals] because we hadn’t seen them play so we didn’t go into it with the same momentum, but for this game we were much more focused and we played our game,” said Campbell, who notched more than 15 points in the game to lead her group.
Schooner’s ability to run the floor, enter the offensive zone and get the ball in field goal range proved vital to Bella Bella throughout the game and long, breakout passes worked in Bella Bella’s favour more often than not as well.
While New Aiyansh did creep back up on Bella Bella, making it a 19-14 game, Bella Bella’s speed and concise passing was the difference on this night.
“We just had to make sure we maintained our focus and not let any talk or anything get to us,” said Campbell.
“They’re a nice, aggressive team. They’re really good at playing aggressively and no woman should ever lose that. A lot do, but they shouldn’t, so I appreciate that from them. But we come with that same intensity too.”
Injuries to New Aiyansh’s Kayla Vickers (leg) and Nikeisha Clayton (knee) depleted the team’s lineup. Clayton returned while Vickers did not.
Auzia Gonu’s back-to-back threes had New Aiyansh threatening in the second half, with Chantelle Elliot, Jessica Azak and Gonu providing a bulk of the offense for New Aiyansh.
Faith Nisyok was superb at the free throw line as well.
The first half ended with a 10-point advantage for Bella Bella at 39-29 and personal fouls were aplenty with healthy skirmishes for the ball.
Their 51-47 victory over Kamloops helped the team avoid relegation and advance to the finals. Bella Bella also beat Kitkatla in their first contest.
New Aiyansh lost to Hesquiaht 57-55 which forced them to play Lax Kw’alaams, Hesquiaht again and Kamloops – three games they all won for the right to face-off against Bella Bella in the finals.