All four Gitxsan teams who went to the 55th annual All Native Basketball Tournament were out by Friday morning.
The Gitxsan Mystics women’s team, who haven’t played in the ANBT together for some time, played the very first game of the tournament after the opening ceremonies and defeated Massett 69-38.
Duane Jackson, Mystics’ head coach, was honoured to have the opportunity and thinks this could be the start of a team that does well every year.
“Great performances all around,” Jackson, who lives in Prince Rupert, said. “But I have to say that Sam Johnson had as good a defensive performance, against two very quick guards, as I have seen in the tournament.”
The second game for the Mystics was against the home team, Metlakatla B.C., who placed second in last year’s tournament.
“The Met game was a game of two halves,” Jackson said. “We came out flying and the only reason we were down by 12 at halftime was turnovers and missed shots.
“We came out gunning in the third quarter and immediately cut the lead to eight points but that appeared to be our last gasp. With a team as experienced as Metlakatla any ebb in the performance creates distance that their experience just doesn’t allow the opponent to make up.”
The final score was 81-56 in favour of Metlakatla B.C.
Next up was a Tofino team the Mystics beat in the qualifying tournament.
“Tofino never stopped coming and used a very experienced attack hitting some big shots down the stretch,” Jackson said. “Many of these shots were contested, they just hit them. Our turnovers were very high and our shot percentage wasn’t, which isn’t a great combination.”
The Mystics lost 65-57, but the coach was thrilled with his team’s effort throughout.
“We never stopped, never quit at any time. With the turnovers and shot percentage the game very well should have been out of our hands but our defence and commitment to one another was what kept it close. As a coach I was very proud to be part of the Mystics and their representation of their community, their nation and their families.”
Jackson knows the Mystics and other Gitxsan teams have what it takes, but need a bit of fine tuning to do better next year.
“Their coachability was top shelf, very easy group to work for, we received some very good remarks from the officials from each game,” Jackson said. “I think the creation of an ongoing athletic program would serve all the ages of athletics back home and inevitably serve the greater community as well. I am hoping to continue on in my involvement with this team, if I do get approached I would like to be able to say, ‘I coach the Mystics.’”
Gitxsan Elite intermediate, 17 to 21-year-olds, being the team going the deepest lost a hard-fought game to Hesquiat Braves, west coast Vancouver Island, 61-60 and finished with a 3-2 record good for fifth place overall.
The Elite’s first opponent was Hartley Bay, who were soundly sent packing 84-46 Feb. 10. Julian Starr notched a team high score, 18 pts and Shane Stewart, 16 pts.
Bella Bella proved the better team in the second game defeating the Elite 81-67 Feb. 11. Colton Murrell led the Elite with 20 pts and John Green posted 14 respectively.
Bouncing back, the Elite handily dealt Massett a 96-82 loss Feb. 12 with Murrell earning player of the game honours with 28 pts and later tournament allstar. Travis Smith notched 22 and Stewart, 18 pts.
Twelve hours later, 8 a.m., the Elite kept up the solid play defeating Port Simpson 81-68. Stewart scored 23, Green tallied 16 while Smith and Murrell added 15 each.
The Kispiox women and men lost both games they played respectively.