When you are in Nespelem at noon, go to the Nespelem Community Center for the midday ball. In the past, players have included CBC members, managers, front-line employees, community members, high school students and out-of-town visitors. They play by 1 and 2, the first and last games are at 15, the others are at 11, victory by two.
Players shoot for teams and the oldest player on the field shoots for the ball. The games can be very competitive, but not all shots are serious. Older players rely more on their wits than on their speed. Lucky shots, missed shots, contested shots and strikes remind everyone that no one is immune to the magic of Noon Ball. A scorecard with blue and red numbers loses track of time as games come and go. A bit of visitation between games occurs, but there is urgency to start the next game. Players need to get back to work.
Most of the time, younger players sit on the chairs near the baseline, older players sit on the stage, and latecomers sit on the bleachers. They wait for their turn. Both teams are praised for their play when they return to rest between games. The team with the next game sets up easy shots while waiting for the other team to get a drink of water and rest a bit.
The games gradually become more serious. No one wants to walk away with a losing record for the day or the week. There’s not much you can do when the game is only at 11 and the other team is getting quick points or knocking down 2s. Midday Prom Dynasties expire once lunch is over. ended. Everyone is there to steal a game, a point, have a good time and laugh. Those who emerged in the 80s and 90s extend their athleticism on the field every time one of their shots goes down, while the next generation is on a fast break with hallelujah jubilation to etch their names on the field with their hearts.
If games at Nespelem are urgent, then games at Omak Community Center are deliberate. Players know to show up a little before 6 o’clock in case the youth teams finish earlier. Once the lineup begins, the oldest player gets the first hit, then it’s any man or woman for themselves. If it was Harry Potter, the ball would be the Sorting Hat. Players begin to take their shots and teams quickly fill up as some normally reliable shooters take their third or fourth shot, still unable to team up except to play for Slytherin as they couldn’t find the back of the net. There might be a four-to-five game to look forward to on some nights.
The first person from the first team shoots for the ball. Not everyone pays attention to the shot until they need to know if they are preparing on offense or defense. Someone will point out who shot the ball and missed. The shot on the ball does not count unless a player from the other team witnesses it. It’s shirts against skins, the eternal struggle. The defense usually starts with a zone, and the attack will place a player in the high post and the ball is checked as people arriving on time come through the door, surprised to have missed the shot for the teams. All players know each other, what they are able and unable to do and try to limit the former while exploiting the latter. If you don’t know either, then your game could be very short.
Music is playing on the speakers. The same type of scorecard used at the NCC is used at the OCC and many of the same players make the trip. The evening seems endless. They call their own fouls, they control inbounds and out of bounds, trips, double dribbles and sometimes dodgy calls out of necessity to extend the game. The players waiting to enter offer their whistles, but the only referees are the 10 players themselves. The final resolution is to shoot it, as the saying goes, “The bullet doesn’t lie.”
The players shoot to warm up on the side hoops and on the main court as the match in progress takes place at the far end of the gymnasium. They bring their children who shoot while they play. Lucky parents can be in the field with their children. An errant rebound off a side hoop has been known to stop a game halfway through, sometimes at a pivotal moment for both teams.
Player numbers swell during Christmas and Spring Break. Players also show up on tournament week for places like Spokane, Ft. Hall, Warm Springs, Yakama, Lytton, Kamloopa, Lapwai and Tulalip. They post their teams’ fortunes on social media and bring home stories of the referee’s bad officiating, how far their team has come where they’ve won or lost. They tell their stories as the civilization they call basketball reigns before them, a laminar flow of attack against a cacophony of defense.
Every hoops night must have an end. Many players have already left, having had their share of opportunities to win one, or satisfied with having won a few victories in the evening. Some leave empty-handed, not a “W” in their name. Players come to compete, prepare for next weekend, help the next generation, recharge their batteries. As they say, “The ball is life…”
OCC Hosts Iron-5 Basketball Tournament
OMAK, Washington- Omak Community Center hosted a 12-team, double-elimination open tournament on April 23-24. In addition to the reserve players, players also came from Pateros, Spokane, Wenatchee and Canada to play.
Games were 21, par 1 and 2, with a time limit of 25 minutes, call your own fouls (similar to HoopFest). Nate Pachosa’s team ran the tables, finishing with a 4-0 record. They beat the Syilx team from British Columbia, led by Treyton Waardenburg. Entry to the tournament was free and was to be a warm-up for the Battle of Nations in Spokane, where the CTC is sending several teams.