Heritage Hawks soar into Regionals

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Ok, Hawks fans. For those of you who have journeyed with the team from as far north as Lummi and as far south as Tacoma, then major props to your dedication to fill the bleachers and cheer on the boys getting buckets. For everyone else, here’s your much-awaited playoff update. 

The last two weeks whizzed by at a frenetic pace that resembles the high-octane offense that fuels the Tulalip Hawks deep playoff run. Last we checked in, Tulalip had just claimed 2nd place in the NW1B District tournament. Falling to their inner-league rival and fellow tribal school, the Lummi BlackHawks. The silver showing punched Heritage’s ticket into the Tri-District tournament, and with it the right to host a 1st round home game.

1st Round:

Tulalip hosted Concordia Christian Academy at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium on February 10. Friends and family who filled the bleachers were treated to a good ol’ fashioned Christian beatdown. Adrian Jefferson got the party started with a transition layup, followed by Tokala Black Tomahawk hitting a midrange jumper to put the home team up 4-0. Then the boys got to work on defense; trapping ill-prepared ball handlers, coming up with one steal after another, and preventing Concordia from any quality shot attempts. Their 4-0 lead ballooned to 20-2 late in the 1st quarter.

Both offense and defense continued to fire on all cylinders well into the 3rd quarter when the boys were up 61-30. Doubling up their opponent, Coach Sanchey made the most of the moment by putting in a full unit of bench players. One by one, the bench got buckets to the delight of their fans and teammates who actively cheered them on through each 3-point attempt. Mercy finally came to those Concordia Christians in the form of the game-ending buzzer. 

The 75-38 blowout W was an ideal way to get their Tri-District tournament started. Freshman guard J.J. Gray led all scorers with 23 points to go with his 10 rebounds and 13 steals…that’s a triple-double with steals! Amare Hatch added 13 points. Notably, Tulalip had 10 players score a bucket and, as a team, amassed a whopping 29 steals. 

“Being this is Tri-Districts, we told our team pregame to view this as a whole new season. The regular season is behind us, Districts is behind us. Each team is reset and all our records go to 0-0,” said Coach Sanchey after the home W. “Now, after this win, we’re 1-0 and have to focus on keeping up the momentum and continue to play this energy on each possession moving forward. So long as we play our game like we know how, then I like our chances no matter who the opponent.”

2nd Round:

The Hawks ventured south to take on the Sound Christian Lions in Tacoma on February 13. It was a slow start for the boys as their shots just weren’t falling in the early going. Meanwhile, the Lions were feasting on offensive rebounds and getting high percentage shots at the rim. End of one, Tulalip trailed 11-15.

In the 2nd quarter, J.J. and Tokala started to sizzle. Both players made a 3-pointer, connected on a running floater and made a free-throw, which sparked a dominant 23-11 run by their team, resulting in a 34-26 halftime lead. The remainder of the game would be a near equal battle, with the Lions continuing to pursue buckets in the painted area while the Hawks used their athleticism and shooting touch to execute their offense from the perimeter. 

Threes being worth more than twos, Tulalip’s shooters connected on 10 deep balls as a team and left Tacoma with another W. This time by the margin of 62-54. J.J. once again led all scorers with 24 points, while Tokala scored 14 points and Chano Guzman added 11 points.

3rd Round:

Next up, the Hawks journeyed north on February 16 for yet another matchup with their version of basketball kryptonite, Lummi Nation. Worth knowing: if we didn’t include Lummi games, then Tulalip would be riding a massive 13-game winning streak. But that’s not how it works, so over their last 16 games Tulalip had a still impressive 13-3 record, yet all 3 of those losses came at the hands of the dreaded BlackHawks. Would the fourth time be the charm?

First quarter. Down 0-4, J.J. used a burst of speed to blow by his defender and score on a two-handed scoop shot to give Tulalip their first bucket. After Lummi hit a 3-pointer, Tokala countered with a 3 ball of his own to keep it close, 5-7. Then, Lummi did what Lummi does, which is play the classic Rez ball style better than anyone else around. They took a double-digit lead by the end of the 1st quarter and never relinquished it. 

Tulalip would trail 10-25 in the 2nd, 33-48 in the 3rd and ultimately lost 45-61. Tokala and J.J. both scored 16 points, Chano added 10 points, and Amare chipped in 5 points. With the loss, Tulalip still advanced to the Tri-District 3rd place game with significant Regional seeding impact still on the line. 

4th Round (3rd place game):

Tulalip had less than 24 hours to shake off the L to Lummi when they again travelled north. This time for a February 17 matchup with Muckleshoot at Mt. Vernon Christian’s gym. These two teams previously met way back on December 4 in Tulalip, when the Hawks were defeated 52-69. 

The second time around did not start off well. In fact, the boys trailed 0-12 midway through the 1st quarter before senior forward Hazen Shopbell put his team on the board with a tough transition bucket. Moments later, now trailing 4-16, J.J. corralled an offensive rebound and found a wide-open Hazen in the corner. Hazen splashed a 3 ball that gave his team new life.

Tulalip would start clicking on both sides of the ball and managed to claw their way back to tie the game 36-36 late in 3rd quarter. With the pressure clearly on Muckleshoot after blowing their big lead, all their players except one would buckle in the game’s decisive 4th quarter. 

In the final frame, Muckleshoot could only muster consistent offense from their senior forward. Meanwhile, Hazen continued his hot shooting and welcomed the added offense of the team’s freshman phenom. J.J. Gray would explode for 12 points in the game’s biggest moment to cap off the comeback victory. With eager chants of “Tulalip Power!” echoing from the Mt. Vernon bleachers, the boys basked in the 65-59 W knowing they had claimed 3rd place in the Tri-District tournament and punched their ticket to Regionals.

The Hawks were led by J.J.’s 20 points and Hazen’s 19 points. Tokala chipped in 13 points, 11 of which came in the 1st quarter to keep his team competitive. 

Looking ahead:

After adding a 3rd place finish in Tri-Districts to their in-season resume, Tulalip now soars into the Regional tournament with one simple goal: win and move on to State. They’ve been designated the #9 seed and will play the winner of #16 Columbia Adventist vs #17 Mount Vernon Christian. 

Mark your calendars. Tulalip’s one and only regional game will be played on Saturday, February 24, at 8pm at Arlington High School. Win and their season continues at State. Lose and their memorable run comes to a sudden end.