Inchelium boys basketball team defies expectations

INCHELIUM - Entering the 2019/20 boys basketball season, Inchelium wasn’t expected to do much.

The consensus was that Inchelium would finish at or near the bottom of the league.

“We were supposed to be bottom of the barrel,” said Chrystal Pakootas, tribal member and head coach for Inchelium.

Luckily for the Hornets, they would have control of their own destiny: Inchelium went 8-8 in Northeast 1B league games.

“We got third in our league. We really weren’t supposed to be there,” Pakootas said.

Inchelium clinched a spot in the Northeast District 1B boys basketball tournament, where the top four teams from the NE North and South divisions enter into an 8-team, two-loss elimination bracket. 

Up first for #3 seeded Hornets would be a tough Almira/Coulee-Hartline squad.

 A.C.H. would ultimately be too much, going on to win 77-34 over Inchelium on Feb. 11 in the first round game of the NE 1B District tournament.

“These guys here [A.C.H.], they’re going to do really good at state,” said Pakootas. “We tried hard. They outsized us. They out quick us. They got a guy who’s averaging 20 points per game.”

Eight of the 10 players from A.C.H. are 5’10’’ or taller with four players being 6’2’’ or taller.

“I think two of our guys are six foot,” said Pakootas.  “We have a couple five-tenner’s and the rest our 5 '4'’ and under.”

 The tallest player for Inchelium is Lonnie Simpson Jr., who checks in at 6’1’’.

Simpson (Colville member) led Inchelium with nine points. Tribal members Isaac Hoskie and Amari Pakootas both finished with seven points for the Hornets.

Francis Finley and Michael Stensgar, both Colville tribal members, each made a 3-point shot against A.C.H. Both Finley and Stensgar are 5’4’’.

In their next contest, the Hornets faced more of a dire situation.

A loser out/winner advance format as Valley Christian would be their next opponent.  

Inchelium trailed 11-7 after the first quarter and 25-14 at halftime.

Valley Christian expanded their lead in the third, outscoring Inchelium 13-3 in the quarter to take a 38-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Valley Christian netted 24 points in the fourth quarter to Inchelium’s 10, as they would go on to win 62-27 Feb. 15 at Medical Lake High School, ending the Hornets season.

 “All we can do is try our best and that’s what they’re doing,” Pakootas said. “I’m proud of them all.”

 Tribal member Payton Boyd led Inchelium with 10 points. Lonnie Simpson (Colville tribal member) finished with five points for the Hornets. Tribal members Garrett Mason and Amari Pakootas both finished with four points for the Hornets.

In her first season as the head coach of Inchelium, Pakootas has won over her team.

“The boys respect me as a women coach, and I think they just respect me as a community member,” says Pakootas. “They’re giving it there all for me.”

She helped lead the Hornets to a third place finish in the NE 1B North Division, a third seed at the NE district tournament and finished with an overall record of 9-12 despite a season full of ups and downs.

Inchelium will lose two seniors (Isaiah Seymour and Jim Billy) to graduation.

“We have two juniors, an eighth grader and the rest of them are freshman,” says Pakootas. “So we have a lot to look forward to in the future. I’m hoping next year is going to be our year. Just last week, we almost beat Cusick. (65-64 on Feb. 6) And Cusick is probably going to state, so hopefully we’ll be there next year.”

Northeast 1B North

                 League  Overall

Team           W L     W L

Cusick          12-3   16-5

Selkirk         12-3   15-7

Inchelium     8-8     9-12

Republic       4-11    4-14

Curlew         3-12    5-14

Northport     1-15    1-17

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