It’s three times the joy for the Kitamaat women’s team as a commanding performance in a 75-48 win over Hazelton made them just the second group in the division’s All Native Basketball history to pull off the coveted three-peat.
Not since the Metlakatla, BC run from 1997-99 have fans of the tournament seen such dominance from a squad in the division. There should be little suprise that this Haisla group is the one to pull off the feat though, their dedication to practicing year round serving as both an aid on the court and an inspiration off it.
This year was certainly no cake walk — Kitamaat’s opponent in the final had already bested them earlier in the tournament, forcing them down into the Consolation Bracket. After battling back into the final, the Hazelton Mystics again stood between Kitamaat and their goal.
|Kitamaat’s Adelia Paul is matched up by Hazelton’s Amber Wells. Paul got the better of most of her defenders during the final, scoring a game high 23 points. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Hazelton had held Kitamaat to just 43 points in their first encounter, and it looked as though the offensive struggles may continue as the score was just 12-10 Hazelton after one. Kitamaat started to get the shots to fall in the second to take a 29-27 halftime lead, and out of the break they were off to the races. A 20-10 advantage in the third gave Hazelton a double digit lead heading into the final frame, where the onslaught continued as Kitamaat blew the lead open to 25 points and more. A three ball by Jennifer Nyce in the fourth was an especially certain exclamation mark on the game, as were a trio of threes in the final 10 minutes from Kailee Gardiner.
|Kitamaat’s Kailee Gardiner looks to fend off her defender during action in the Women’s Final. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
At the heart of the performance was Kitamaat’s star point guard Adelia Paul, whose tournament efforts — including a game high 23 points in the final — earned her back to back MVP honours.
“The three-peat is sweet. It’s a lot sweeter because we all sacrificed something to be there, we practiced and really committed to the team,” Paul said after the game. “Everybody has their roles, and everybody started executing during that third game. Everybody started stepping up to the plate and contributing all around, on defence, offence, and talking to each other in the change room to remind us to execute on the floor. It was definitely a huge team effort, and quite the solid squad this year, all 12 players.
I think the biggest factor was the whole two days off that we had from Monday to Thursday,” Paul explained of her team’s mid-week struggle against the Mystics. “We came out really soft in our game on Thursday. Today we had a few games behind us, and that really lit us up. We knew we had to be more aggressive, everybody attack the hoop and play their roles more.”
|Kitamaat’s Adelia Paul was named MVP for the second year in a row. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Leading up to the tournament Paul singled out the incredible support the team receives from the community. From fundraising efforts to make sure the team makes it in February, to raucous cheers come game time, the Haisla fans show up in force for their team.
“It’s always nice to have our community behind us, their energy fed our energy right off the bat. It makes me tear up thinking about it. It’s something that brings our community together, and I’m sure we’re going to be celebrating next week with them. They feel a lot of pride in the win too.”
|The 2020 All Native Basketball Tournament Women’s Division Champions Kitamaat. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|(Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Kitamaat head coach Keith Nyce added a new watch to his collection thanks to the win. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Kitamaat’s Jennifer Nyce received the Sixth Woman award for her work off the bench. Nyce was also named to the All-Star team, along with teammate Kailee Gardiner. Brittany Simpson didn’t go home empty-handed for Hazelton, being chosen as Best Defensive and Most Inspirational Player. Hazelton was also named the Most Sportsmanlike Team.
|Kitamaat’s Jennifer Nyce receives the Sixth Woman award. Nyce contributed 17 points in the final game to help Kitamaat lock up their three-peat. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Hazelton’s Brittany Simpson was named Best Defensive Player of the tournament, this block on Kitamaat’s Adelia Paul in the final helping to solidify her case. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Hazelton’s Brittany Simpson with her Best Defensive Player award. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Other awards included Emma Stewart from Gitwinksihlkw as Most Promising, Alexis Ryan from Kitkatla as Miss Hustle, Vancouver’s Shenise Sigsworth as Most Outstanding Player, and Vancouver’s Karalee Antoine as the tournament’s top scorer.
|The Hazelton Mystics played a strong tournament, falling only in the final game to settle for a second place finish. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Tournament All-Stars from the Women’s Division, including Jennifer Nyce and Kailee Gardiner from Kitamaat (right). (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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