From the opening salvo of the Women’s Division final at the 2022 All Native Basketball Tournament (ABNT) it appeared Vancouver All My Relations (AMR) was out for revenge against the Similkameen Starbirds.
The Cinderella Starbirds relegated fourth-seeded AMR to the elimination bracket on Wednesday as they breezed their way through the winners bracket to the final.
In the championship game Sunday at 1 p.m., AMR opened an early 8-2 lead, but the Cinderella Starbirds battled back briefly taking the lead by the middle of the opening frame.
Vancouver rallied going on a 14-point run to go up 22-10 with seconds remaining in the first.
A buzzer-beating three-pointer from half-court by Amanda Montgomery seemed to spur the Starbirds on, however, as they grittily clawed their way back to within three points by the half.
The third quarter belonged to Similkameen as they tied AMR with 3:36 remaining in the frame on a free throw. On the next drive, a three-pointer would give them a one-point advantage going into the final 10 minutes.
The game remained a tight battle in the final frame but Vancouver sustained the slight edge prevailing 57-52 as the final buzzer rang out in the Main Gym at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.
Vancouver assistant coach Montanna Howe, filling in for head coach Pam Baker who had taken ill, said it was a particularly satisfying victory.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity and, also, being from an urban community, it’s really challenging for us to feel connected and this is everything to us,” she said.
She said it was also satisfying to get another crack at Similkameen after losing to them earlier in the week.
“They’re our friends as well, so we always battle when we play them and we respect them a lot and know it will be a challenge but it’s always fun to play them.”
Tournament standouts for AMR Shenise Sigsworth and Karalee Antoine both put up 19 points for Vancouver in the winning effort.
Sigsworth, who was stellar throughout the week, was named the 2022 women’s Most Valuable Player.
The Starbirds held Adelia Paul, 2020 ABNT women’s MVP, to four points, but her presence in the game feeding the ball to the scorers, directing traffic and on the defensive end of the court was strongly felt and earned her an All Star nod.
Similkameen’s Jade Montgomery led the Starbirds in scoring with 20.
The game was the first time for both Vancouver and Similkameen in an ANBT final.