It’s been a long road for the Bella Bella women’s All Native 2015 team.
They came through the qualifying tournament in November of last year, impressing fans who got an early taste of what was to come in their convincing victory over New Aiyansh.
And it was a duo who hadn’t even played together before the All Native Basketball Tournament (ANBT) kicked off last week, who vaulted the unexpected Heiltsuk ladies to the throne, beating Kitamaat 71-59.
Jasmine Reid and Shayla Schooner, close in number, 15 and 13 on the court respectively, dazzled the Saturday afternoon crowd with their innate ability to find each other on the court and hook up for more than a few reverse layups and shots from inside the box.
“We’ve never played together,” said Schooner, with flowers in hand after the game. “We’ve just been mentally talking. And she’s like ‘Shay, you’ve got to do this. I’ll give it right back to you and I’ll be there. I’ll be wide open and it just worked. It clicked.”
Reid was named player of the game and Schooner Most Valuable Player and Miss Hustle. The duo combined for 36 points, with Reid collecting 29, including 12 in the fourth quarter. “She killed it. She really did,” said Schooner.
Bella Bella defeated Old Massett, New Aiyansh, Kitamaat again and Hazelton to give them the semifinals bye and the right to meet Kitamaat in the final.
Through two quarters, Kitamaat matched the women in red basket for basket as there was no bigger lead than the four-point cushion Kitamaat had at the halftime buzzer, 31-27.
A big three-pointer by Bella Bella’s Lisa Grant pulled them to within one point of the Haisla ladies starting the third and it wasn’t until Denise White and Yvonne Campbell hit back-to-back shots inside the box that the Heiltsuk team really started to pull away.
Reid dominated the fourth quarter and Kitamaat couldn’t find an answer to the player of the game’s relentless attack with deadly-accurate shots and a tenacity to find her own rebounds.
Grant finished with 12 points for Bella Bella while White and Campbell scored eight. Schooner notched seven of her own.
Kailee Gardnier had 19 points for Kitamaat and Kierra Stevens sank 15. “Bella Bella has never won a championship. This is the first time they’ve been to the final for 23 years, so it’s huge,” said Schooner.