In a season with missed practices, missed games, and missing players, the Lummi Nation boys and girls basketball teams are missing something else: fans.
In what would normally have been the biggest event in the community on Monday, Jan. 17, the Blackhawks played a doubleheader in their home gym without cheerleaders, students, families, even tribal council members.
Fortunately, the Blackhawks didn’t need their fans on this day as the Lummi Nation girls defeated Lopez Island, 68-13, in the afternoon contest, and the Lummi Nation boys did the same to the Lobos, 70-27, in the early evening game.
The teams were abiding by the Lummi Tribal health team’s recent restrictions because of the ongoing spread of COVID on the reservation. Teams could play, but no extra spectators were permitted. The situation will be reevaluated on Friday as the tribe considers the health and safety of the students and community.
“It was eerie and quiet,” said Lummi Nation girls coach Krista Jefferson, whose team was playing in front of empty stands for the first time this season. “I didn’t have to yell real loud to be heard.”
“It was very awkward,” said junior Aleisha Solomon. “You can hear everything.”
“It feels like practice,” said senior Duncan Toby, whose boys team has played minus fans for a couple of games. “There’s way less pressure, but way less fun. I love the energy our community brings. The fans are what get us going.”
Lummi Nation is the only Whatcom County school that has such restrictions, but Skagit County schools recently limited attendance to their basketball games.
“We want to keep playing,” said Lummi Nation boys coach Jerome Toby, who is also the school’s athletic director. “Strict guidelines will help ensure that.”
Raven Solomon, a junior on the girls team, agreed: “A lot of games have been canceled. We just want to have a season.”
Here’s how the Lummi Nation teams fared on Monday.
Lummi Nation 68, Lopez Island 13
The Blackhawks (4-3 overall, 3-1 and in second place in the Northwest 1B League) scored all the points they’d need in a 16-point first quarter to easily overpower the Lobos.
Sophomore Serena Jo Pantelia led Lummi Nation with 20 points, Aleisha Solomon had 16 points, sophomore Keyonee Morris had 10 points, and Raven Solomon had 7. Jacynta Miles, a 6-foot-4 transfer who joined the team mid-season, added 13 points even though still recovering from a recent hospital stay.
Jefferson was pleased with how her young team reacted after having not played for nearly a month because of cancellations.
“We got to run plays and everybody got to play,” said Jefferson, whose team only has two seniors. “It was a good experience for the inexperienced.”
Lopez Island fell to 0-3 overall and 0-3 in league. But give the Lobos credit. Not only were they playing for the first time since losing to Lummi Nation on Dec. 13, but Lopez was without its coach and eight varsity girls because of COVID.
Lummi Nation 70, Lopez Island 27
The Blackhawks (7-1 overall, 5-0 and in first place in Northwest 1B League) jumped out to a 21-1 lead to start the game and coasted to their seventh straight victory.
Senior Tyran Lane dominated in the paint and finished with a game-high 20 points. Junior Richard Wilson had 13 points, freshman Tony Abrams had 12 points, sophomore Tobias Francis had 10 points, and Toby added 7 points.
“We tell them not to play the scoreboard,” said coach Toby, who called off the press and was already sitting his starters by the second quarter. “Lopsided victories can be sloppy. But I was happy with the boys. They were dialed in defensively. And everybody got a chance to see the floor.”
Lopez Island, which was also missing five varsity players because of COVID, fell to 2-2 overall and 2-2 in league. Lopez’s other loss also was to Lummi Nation on Dec. 13, 68-21.
The next games for the Lummi Nation boys and girls are Thursday, when they are in Marysville to play Grace Academy, and Friday, when they host Cedar Park Christian (Lynnwood).