The Arctic Sounder

Tikigaq Harpooners’ MVPs share what drives their passion

Tikigaq Harpooners Jennifer Nash and Joelian Lane get the Most Valuable Player award during the Rex Rock Tip Off 2023 tournament this weekend – both for the second time.

“Winning the MVP award for the Rex Rock Tip Off twice is an honor and made me feel extremely happy,” Nash said.

During the Rex Rock Tip Off, Tikigaq Harpooners girls won 87-2 against Effie Kokrine, 75-21 against Hooper Bay and 45-32 against Glennallen.

Nash said that during the championship, she couldn’t make a bucket, so she tried to make plays for her teammates, and worked hard on her defense instead.

“It made me proud to see my teammates have fun and get buckets,” she said. “Defense win championships is what our coach Ramona Rock always told us.”

Nash said that as a player, she is skilled at three-point field goals, keeping her composure and “taking it in with the famous euro step” – a basketball move in which an offensive player picks up their dribble, takes a step in one direction, and then quickly takes a second step in another direction.

“One of my biggest challenges is keeping a good mindset but I will for sure get that up,” she added.


Nash was around 4 years old when her love for basketball started. Both of her parents played college basketball, which influenced her interests. Plus, she has been growing up in Point Hope – a basketball community.

“Basketball is who I am. It means so much to me and is my safe place,” she said. “When I put on my jersey, I don’t just think of myself but I think of my community and how proud they are of me and my team.”

Now that the tournament is over, Harpooners need to focus on the next home games and preparing for the state tournament, Nash said.

“We are never satisfied about where we’re at, we always want to get better,” she said, “working on our free-throw percentage, our mindsets, confidence, conditioning and working together.

The Most Valuable Player in the Tikigak Harpooners boys team, Joelian Lane, received the award for the second year in a row, bringing joy to his family and community.

“I’m real proud,” his father Elijah Lane said, “Just sitting in this room could see all these medals hanging from the wall.”

During the Tip Off over the weekend, Tikigaq defeated Unalakleet 99-37, defeated Effie Kokrine 75-51 and defeated Glenallen 73-35, the head coach for Tikigaq boys basketball Teddy Frankson said. On Friday, for the first time in the history of the tournament, head coaches played a game too, he said.

Joelian Lane said that during the Tip Off, his defense was strong. His relative Taylor Milligrock said that his strengths are more than that.

“He plays with his heart from beginning to end and represents Tikigaq with grace and pride,” Milligrock said, “always encouraging his teammates to do their best and be the best they can be, always giving his teammates a chance to get the ball and show everyone who they are.”

Joelian Lane loves basketball since he was a little boy and saw his uncles and relatives play, he said. His first game was when he was about 8 years old at the Little Dribblers League.

“After that, I couldn’t stop playing,” he said.

Elijah Lane said that practicing with older players helped his son strengthen his game. Joelian Lane agreed.

“When we were little kids, we had competitive teams. … Every kid around here was good and every game was our competition.”

Tikigak Harpooners boys have one last home game next week against Noatak before heading to state.

Joelian Lane said he is not worried about his team dominating the regionals. Instead, they need to focus on the state in early March.

“We would need to work on our defense, talking more and box out more,” he said. “Less turnovers and working hard in practice.”

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.