Chief Kitsap Academy girls basketball team makes school history

For the first time in the school’s history, a girls basketball team represented the school in WIAA competition

POULSBO — It was a historic year for Chief Kitsap Academy, a Tribal compact school.

For the first time in the school’s history, a girls basketball team represented the school in WIAA competition.

It wasn’t an easy season for the girls, most commonly known as the “Iron Five,” playing against four teams in the 1B North Olympic League. But the players, mostly underclassmen with little basketball experience, were determined to play their best.

They sometimes traveled more than 150 miles for games and juggled after-school practices, homework, and learning the sport.

They concluded their first season with a game against state-ranked Neah Bay Feb. 3, and still have not experienced that first win.

So what makes these girls come out to play every match with passion and intensity? School administrators believe the team has heart.

Though the girls’ efforts didn’t translate to wins, CKA Principal Lucy Dafoe believes the Bears experienced victories every single game.

“Their victories were in other ways,” Dafoe said. “Everyone scored and learned boxing out, dribbling and turnovers. This experience taught our kids to stick it out.

“A lesson in athletics is to be dedicated and committed while learning time management between school and sports,” she said. “Watching their confidence grow makes me excited for the future.”

The start-up varsity team is composed of eighth-graders Alana Chiefstick, Cassidy Hill, Miya Smith and Kailyn Usman; freshman Tu-Tai-Ud Brealan-Bayes and Brandy Boure; junior Keilah Andrews; and senior Martha Fergus.

The team is coached by CKA language and culture instructor Randi Purser.

“It was an honor to coach these girls,” Purser said. “They knew the odds were against them and played every game with heart and determination.”

Purser said their most memorable game was when all of her players scored against Crescent Jan. 25. The Bears lost 40-32 in one of their closest games.

“Even though the scoreboard was imbalanced, Randi made them stand tall and feel good about what we’re doing,” Dafoe said. “The kids responded so well to her. She was able to come out and have a nice presence to help build and grow the team.”

At their game against Lummi Nation Dec. 27, they were announced as the “Lady Bears,” anticipated to “make history” as they played their first season.

The name stuck.

While traveling great distances to play against other Tribal schools, they took turns hosting and feeding the visiting teams.

Feeding, caring and hosting are traditional, Dafoe said. “We as Tribal communities can stand and share these ties together.”

Dafoe said players on opposing teams clapped for the Bears when they made shots.

“The score was always so imbalanced, but they cheered us on,” she said.

CKA students reportedly took that positivity back to their classrooms.

“They picked each other up,” CKA Athletic Director Rex Green said. “There was always this positivity. And they brought that back to the classrooms and extended it out to the school.”

At times, Green said, when a player was injured or needed to rest, the team of four played on and never gave up.

Dafoe remembers games where the girls could hardly rest because of limited players.

“When it got down to four, you knew that they were digging deep,” she said. “We’re proud of our kids and the community is too. They stuck it out and that’s powerful. They couldn’t foul out, get hurt or even rest. It was beautiful to watch them work so hard.”

Though the Lady Bears ended their season at 0-9, 0-12, players felt proud to be the start of what they hope to be a long-lasting tradition at the school.

Alana Chiefstick, eighth- grade varsity player, said she wanted to make her friends and family proud.

“Being on the first-ever Chief Kitsap Academy girls high school team makes me feel happy and chill at the same time,” she said. “I can see us improving as a team [with] more people joining the basketball teams.”

This is also the first year the school has had a middle school basketball program. The middle school girls team won their first game Feb. 7.

Eighth-grade varsity player Kailyn Usman and Chiefstick also play on the middle school team.

“I’ve learned not to be afraid of the ball,” Usman said. “It was incredible to win our first middle school game, but being apart of the first high school team, I felt honored. It seems like it matters to everyone that we made history.”

As the CKA basketball programs grow in popularity, Green and Dafoe are hoping to add more sports programs into the mix.

CKA plans to offer golf in the spring, also coached by Purser, utilizing the Suquamish Tribe-owned White Horse Golf Course. The school also hopes to add in volleyball.

“We’re working to see where we can expand,” Dafoe said. “At times, we’re challenged to create a connectedness with students and school.

“This athletic ownership will help us with our journey to get students to graduation. Our little school wants to grow and be competitive in the future as we continue to build sustainability. These girls were the first to kick off something that will hopefully ride out the future and is followed union year after year.”

As far as the future of the girls basketball program, Purser has high hopes.

“The girls [have] improved every practice and every game,” she said. “The future still holds our first win, and it will be glorious.”

As Dafoe and Green discussed the athletic opportunities for the future at Chief Kitsap Academy, they noted an enlarged photograph hanging in the school’s athletic office.

The black and white image is of the Suquamish baseball team from 1920.

“I imagine it will be something like that,” Dafoe said. “This is how I see them. Perhaps a picture of our first girls team will hang in who-knows-how-many different departments one day.”

Green added, “It’s exciting to see the future for these ladies on the team. What is it going to look like when they’re seniors? I expect we’ll see so much growth.”

Chief Kitsap Academy boys varsity team (6-3, 11-5), is ranked second in the 1B North Olympic League standings. They host the district tournament on Feb. 14 at Kingston High School.

— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter for the North Kitsap Herald. Contact her at sbonomi@northkitsap