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Three Hazelton teams advance in All Native Basketball Tournament

The women’s and intermediate men’s and senior men’s teams all won on Day 2
Taylor Wale goes for a jump shot against Greenville en route to scoring 21 for the Gitxsan Mystics (Hazelton) in Women’s Division second round play at the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert April 4. (Thom Barker photo)

Three Hazelton teams advanced in the All Native Basketball Ball Tournament (ANBT) in Day 2 action at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre in Prince Rupert today (April 4).

Game 4 in the Senior Men’s Division saw the Gitxsan Elite (Hazelton) up against the host Prince Rupert Grizzlies in the Main Gym.

It was a tight game with multiple lead changes until early in the third quarter when the Elite started sinking virtually every shot they looked at while the Grizzlies struggled to find the net.

Hazelton gradually pulled away and took a 14 shot lead into the fourth quarter. In the fourth Hazelton appeared to be dropping three-pointers at will adding to the lead and eventually a 104-81 final.

Elite coach Martin Smith was very satisfied with the result.

“We haven’t won an opening game here in a few years now and beating the home team that’s a bonus,” he said.

Smith credited the scoring to a influx of new blood.

“We’ve got an influence of some young guys this year and it’s really helping us out and veterans are playing better too now, doing what they’re supposed to do out there.”

Colton Murrel led the Elite with 35 points on the day.

Grizzlies coach Anthony Yecyec was proud of his team’s effort despite the loss.

“Honestly, they worked hard,” he said. “That was a tough team to match up against. We’re a smaller team… to match up against those taller guys, it was tough to figure out and start to manage on defence. Our guys were able to figure it out later on, it was just that team made a lot of their threes, they didn’t miss.”

Russell Reece took top scoring honours for Rupert with 19.

Yecyec said in future games, they will be working on going into the second half strong.

“That’s the thing, is coming out of halves with more energy. The first five minutes after halves are so important to kind of get your momentum going, kind of how they did it, is they kicked it into high gear and started their half off on a higher note.”

With the win, Hazelton earned the right to go up against second-seeded Metlalatla, Alaska in the second round tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.

Rupert is now relegated to the elimination round where they will meet either Lax Kw’alaams or Similkameen who play later this afternoon.

Earlier in the day, the Hazelton women (Gitxsan Mystics), who earned a bye into the second round by virtue of their second-place finish in the 2020 ANBT, were in tough against the Greenville Aces.

The Aces, coming off a decisive win yesterday 67-47 against Lax Kw’alaams, came out of the gates firing to take an 18-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Mystics whittled away at the lead and were only down by seven at the half.

In the third quarter, Hazelton caught on fire, going on an 11-point run to take their first lead of the afternoon 35-31.

Greenville was not done, however. Late in the fourth, down 47-40, the Aces went on a small run of their own cutting the lead to one.

Two foul shots gave Hazelton a three-point lead in the waning seconds, but their opponents with possession still had an opportunity to tie. With two seconds on the clock, the Aces inbounded and nailed the buzzer-beater from the corner. Greenville supporters erupted in deafening applause, but unfortunately the shooter’s foot was on the three-point line making the final 49-48.

Hazelton coach Tamara Stoney said the break from competitive ball during the pandemic has been tough, but they are thrilled to be back with an opening win.

“It’s nice coming back and being able to represent your nation,” she said. “It’s not just a basketball tournament, we’re playing for our whole nation, the Gitxsan Nation.”

She said the win was a matter of adapting to the game that was presented to them.

“We know that’s a really good shooting team, so I didn’t want to go zone against them, but we threw a zone in there to take away their drive and I think that changed the momentum of the game,” she said.

“If they had hit more of their shots, it would have been a different outcome, but defensively I think we get stronger as the tournament goes on, so seeing that my girls are playing this well in game one, gives me a lot of confidence moving on in the tournament.”

The second-seeded Mystics play again Wednesday against third-seeded Prince Rupert, who also advanced earlier today to the third round in the Women’s Division with a 54-45 victory over Gitwinksihlkw.

In the Intermediate Men’s Division Hazelton also advanced dominating Kitamaat Village 77-57.

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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