The three-time champion (2018 – 2020) Haisla (Kitamaat) Ladies will return to the All Native Basketball Tournament final after a disappointing early exit as the first seed in 2022.
Today in the gym at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, Haisla was up against defending champions Vancouver All My Relations (AMR) in a rematch of their Thursday meeting.
Whereas that game was a nailbiter, in which AMR made a late run, the Ladies were fully in command this afternoon opening a big lead in the first quarter, which they never relinquished.
By the end of the third quarter, Haisla was up 54-30. While Vancouver found a new gear in the final frame taking the quarter 16 – 6, the gulf had become just too wide to bridge. When the final buzzer sounded, it 60 – 47.
Coach Keith Nyce said it was gratifying to return to championship form.
“We got most of our players back that were with us last year and we put in the work and we expected to be back in the final,” he said.
He was also proud of the way the team performed in the game.
“We had a great first quarter, a great second quarter, they were in the man-to-man and we were able to pick them apart pretty good,” Nyce said.
He also noted that their shots were dropping today unlike yesterday when the Similkameen Starbirds knocked them into the elimination bracket which forced the semi-final with Vancouver.
Despite having to face the team in the final that sent them to the other side of bracket Nyce is cautiously confident.
“We felt that we didn’t show our best last night to Similkameen and we hope to be better tomorrow afternoon,” he said.
Going into the final Nyce is preaching patience.
“The game plan is not to panic against their ball pressure,” he said. “We have to deal with their ball pressure and their big. We’re not going to shut down their big, we know that, but we’ve got to get some kind of control over her.”
The Starbirds were the Cinderella story of last year’s tournament waltzing all the way through the winner’s bracket from relative obscurity undefeated including knocking off the first (Haisla), second (Gitanmaax) and fourth (Vancouver) seeds along the way before AMR found their number in the final.
This year, as the second seed, Similkameen was also undefeated on their way to the championship game.
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