An all-First Nations high school basketball team inspires their community and establishes a winning basketball culture within their school.
The Bassano Broncos did so by making the 1A basketball provincials, which is the first time the school has done so in over 40 years.
Although the team ultimately came up short, the Broncos took home the sportsmanship award.
The division 1A basketball provincial’s is a tournament where the teams who finished first and second in their league compete for the provincial championship.
The tournament was held in Hines Creek, Alberta, a small village home to around 400 souls.
The last time the Bassano Broncos made it to the tournament was 1972.
Historically, Bassano, which is home to around 1, 200, hasn’t been a basketball town.
“This is a hockey and volleyball town,” says new head coach Vince Hill, Mohawk from the Iroquois Six Nations, “We’re developing a basketball culture here, and you can see it in the junior high level, kids are more enthusiastic about basketball now.” The team has 10 players, nine of which are Blackfoot, from Siksika Nation, located just west of Bassano, and one Carrier First Nation from British Columbia. The team’s coaching staff also consists of two Blackfoots and one Mohawk.
For Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services, this accomplishment has meant a great deal to the Siksika Nation and has restored much pride for the community.
White says the team has set an example for First Nations youth.
“Not only does it help the Nation by inspiring folks, but it speaks volumes to what our Siksika youth can do.”
The games were streamed online, and the social media posts poured in from members of the community. But point guard Tristen Weasel Head didn’t let the attention take away from his focus.
“There was pressure, but it felt good representing the reserve,” says Weasel Head, “I got everything off my mind and stayed off social media.
To many, it was surprising the Broncos made it this far. Just before the season got underway one of their long time starters, Carter Solway had announced he was transferring schools.
The big forward has left a big hole to fill not only because of his tenacious style of play but also for his on-court leadership.
The team also had to deal with losing their head coach, Gord Bramfield, who had moved schools to be closer to his wife.
Despite leaving the team, Bramfield says he knew the boys would work hard and would carry themselves as gentlemen.
“I would’ve loved to have been their coach, to have seen them through their year. But I think the boys had everything in them to get the job done, regardless of who was coaching.”
The tournament took place on Mar. 19-21. The Broncos fell short in all three games and Coach Hill says the team had difficulty getting into their groove.
Forward Dakota Saddleback says it was tough enduring three loses, but he knew he had to handle it well because he had to set an example for youth back home.
“Hopefully our accomplishment inspires youth to pick up a basketball, but I also hope our [sportsmanship] award sets an example of how to play.”
There will be a significant turnover as six of the 10 players will be graduating in June, but Bassano is looking to continue its winning basketball culture.
“We’re going to lose some significant leadership with all the graduates leaving but we’re already thinking of about those kids who are coming up.” Says Hill.