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Chemawa came oh so close to playoffs

by admin on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Written by Bill Poehler, Statesman Journal

Dan Hotch was in a reflective mood Friday night. The Chemawa Indian School girls basketball coach had watched his team lose a heartbreaking 48-47 game to Salem Academy and a state playoff spot in the final seconds.

For most schools, making the state playoffs becomes a routine occurrence.

For Chemawa, it was an accomplishment to be that close to being in the state playoffs.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Hotch said. “I think that I’ve coached here 16 years and I don’t think I’ve been any more proud of any team that I’ve coached, and I’ve had some good teams.”

I can find three instances of Chemawa teams reaching the state playoffs: The 1944 football team and the 1940 and 1982 boys basketball teams.

That’s it.

Chemawa is at a disadvantage to every other team in the state because of the Salem school’s situation.

Some high school teams that were eliminated last week will have coaches working with players one-on-two starting today, starting open gyms for their teams, taking their teams to camps and playing summer league games then doing more individual work in the fall.

“We’re a Native American boarding school and we come from 60 different tribes,” Hotch said. “Trying to get these girls to play together who don’t know each other, we don’t have the luxury of kids coming from a middle school.

“We had two seniors and we don’t have any four-year seniors, and that makes a difference.”

One senior, Katie Brisbois, was a scoring dynamo for the team. The other, Aubreanna Yellowbird, transferred to Chemawa from Sprague for her senior year.

There was to be a senior point guard, Tia Bowsley, but after missing last season with heart trouble, she suffered a knee injury in the first game of the season.

“We ended up having a sophomore (Mariah Brisbois) take over at point guard and she did a heck of a job,” Hotch said.

Individual state championships are not unusual at the school.

Isiah Nahwahquaw won the 3A long jump championship last year and Lucien Corriveau won the 3A/2A/1A state cross country championship.

But state championships by teams, or state playoff appearances, are scant in the school’s history, which goes back to 1880.

Chemawa’s basketball teams took nearly a month off — from Dec. 15 through Jan. 14 — for Christmas break so the students can go home.

They cram in games against league opponents when they can find open dates before and after the break because they have to make them up at some point.

While Chemawa’s players are in other states, every other team in the state was playing in game after game in tournaments and learning how to be a team.

“We come in the beginning of the year and we start off really good every year, then we go home for Christmas break and we lose a lot,” said Hotch, who also coaches cross country and track and field.

The athletes come in with some basketball skills, but not the type that works well with the highly structured high school game.

The kids grow up playing “Rezball” which is an almost frantic form of basketball.

“They come here and they really don’t understand,” Hotch said. “Santiam Christian, Salem Academy Blanchet, Creswell, these are some of the elite teams in the state that we’re playing against.

“When they see that, coming into that out of playing rezball where you don’t have really any organization, it’s tough.”

The players and coaches were noticeably disappointed after Salem Academy freshman Alyx Crager nailed the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds after being up four points with two minutes left.

But they have nothing to be ashamed of.

from Statesman Journal @ http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20120221/COLUMN0303/202210346/Chemawa-came-oh-close-playoffs

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