Hawks memorable season comes to an end at Regionals

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The whirlwind experience that was the 2023-2024 basketball season ended abruptly in the WIAA Class 1B regional round. Hosted in what was supposed to be a neutral site at Arlington High School on Saturday, February 24, was anything but, in the best kind of way, as the (17-8) Heritage Hawks fans descended upon the gymnasium like a home game. Meanwhile, their opponent, the (18-7) Columbia Adventist Academy Kodiaks came all the way from Battle Ground, a suburb of Vancouver near Oregon.

A raucous environment with all the patented sounds expected of a true Tulalip home game: from chants of “Defense!” and “Tulalip power!” to roars of applause when a Hawk connected on a 3-pointer and immediate uproar when a foul was called on Hawks defenders.

The game’s stakes couldn’t have been higher, and both teams played like it. Their energy and intensity befitting a proper playoff game, with an opportunity to play in the holy grail that is Spokane Arena up for grabs. 

The first half was a battle of contrasting styles that played out to an apparent stale-mate when the score was tied 32-32 late in the 2nd quarter. Heritage exerting every effort to dictate tempo with their run and gun style predicated on forcing turnovers and knocking down 3-pointers. While Columbia Adventist wanted to control the boards and funnel their offense through their power forward, a musclebound 6’2 blondie by the name of Tristan White. 

Senior center Damon Pablo was effective in the game’s early going, scoring three times in the painted area. Then freshman guard Amare Hatch caught fire right before halftime when he made three consecutive 3-balls; each one receiving a louder roar from the dedicated Hawks fans.

Coming out of halftime, the boys trailed by just 1 point, 36-37. The 3rd quarter proved to be decisive. Heritage struggled to get quality jump shots against the adjusted Columbia defense. Meanwhile, the Kodiaks fed Tristan White over and over again to the tune of five buckets; more than the entire Heritage team combined in the 3rd. The Hawks got outscored 11-18 in the frame, and entered the 4th trailing 47-55.

In the 4th quarter, Heritage raged against the dying of the light and continued to shoot from deep until they found their range, once again. Amare hit two more 3’s and fellow guard Chano Guzman connect on two of his own to scratch back to within 4 points, 63-67 with 90 seconds left. This prompted the Kodiaks to call timeout, which was immediately met with another thunderous chant of “Tulalip POWER!”

Unfortunately, that feel good moment would soon dissipate as the boys were unable to muster another point. The buzzer sounded, the scoreboard illuminated a score of 63-70, and so ended Heritage’s memorable season.

Amare led Tulalip in scoring with 17 points off the bench, Hazen Shopbell notched 14 points, and Chano added 12 points. As for that Columbia Adventist center with locks of gold, he scored 27 points.

Finishing just one win shy of a State bid and team journey to Spokane was visible on the emotionally exhausted teenagers who rode a high for the last 3 weeks of playoff basketball.

“We were not so good in the beginning the season (1-3 record), but the coaches kept believing in us and we were able to come together as a team,” said senior forward Hazen Shopbell postgame. “We got better and better the more we practiced, and when we finally got all our players eligible, then came the confidence that we could beat anyone. Playing in gym after gym filled with our fans cheering us on and yelling “Defense!” to get our opponents out of rhythm was huge. We fed off of our fans’ energy all season. This season is something I’ll never forget.”

“This team, man, we grew so much. We really grew into a family,” added senior guard Chano Guzman. “We used to do our own thing on the court, a bunch of iso and what not, but once we got over that and started working as a team, our chemistry just grew and grew. As a senior and lead guard, I always had my team’s back and did my best to be there for them on and off the court. Whoever I ball with, I’m always going to have their back.

“For me, the best moment of the season was getting the huge win over Muckleshoot during the Tri-District tournament. We lost to them earlier in the season when I wasn’t eligible and knew that if I played, we’d beat them. So when we got a chance to play them again, and I got my get back with the W, that meant everything to me. Looking forward, I plan on staying involved in the community and helping the younger players continue to develop their skills. If a college team comes a knocking, I’ll answer for sure.”

Until next time Hawks fans.