The Arctic Sounder

Buckland girls win 4th place at state basketball tournament with speed and energy

Buckland Sissauni girls might not be the tallest players on the court. But what they lack in height, they make up for with speed and confidence.

On Saturday, the girls defeated their opponent, Bristol Bay, in a stunning 64-42 victory that earned Sissauni fourth place in the 1A state basketball tournament.

“It’s awesome. Girls worked hard,” coach Tony Jones said. “We came into the tournament with high expectations and they did well.”

The game kept players on their toes: The Bristol Bay team tried to narrow down the score gap, but Sissauni never let them catch up, showing their opponent their speed, teamwork and ability to shoot from afar.

“The thing that they don’t have is height, but they do very well,” Buckland fan Martha Cervantes said of the Sissauni players. “Because they are fast, they can get the ball, and they can make baskets. And they’re also 3-point shooters so that’s good for them. They are fun to watch.”

Jones complimented the team’s high energy, and the Buckland team’s fan Eva Tciket said that even more important than Sissauni’s good defense is their enjoyment of the game.

“They are having fun,” Eva Ticket said.


The championship started with a 48-45 loss to Klawock, but then the Buckland girls won against Scammon Bay 58-49 and defeated their neighbor Anaktuvuk Pass in a sweeping 70-42 victory.

“We had some good competition,” Jones said, “but they came back, they bounced back and got the last two.”

[Buckland girls to compete for third place at state after a sweeping win. Nunamiut girls unite despite the defeat, injuries and a small team]

Winter storms and canceled games earlier in the season didn’t stop the girls from achieving their goal of reaching the state tournament.

“They won regionals by one point,” said Matthew Berlin, who was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of his daughter, player No. 33, Jacinta Berlin. “I’m so proud of these girls because they’ve been through everything and they’ve been training.”

“That’s our sport in our villages, you know?” Jones said. “All we have is basketball.”

After the regionals in Kotzebue, the team was weathered in for three days. The delay might have become a damper for the team, stealing their precious training time, but the girls managed to perform well at state, Buckland team’s fan Tillie Ticket said.

“They’re here, and they’re working really hard, and it shows,” Tillie Ticket said. “It doesn’t matter what place they take at state. They’re still our champions.”

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.