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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 6, 2001 - Issue 46


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 Cheyenne-Eagle Butte girls win Lakota Nation Invitational


 by Laura M. Dellinger / Today Correspondent / Indian Country Today-October 1, 2001

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The partisan crowd didn’t fill the arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, but their cheers did as the 19th annual Lakota Nation Invitational Girls Basketball tournament narrowed to four teams on its last day.

The championship saw the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Lady Braves defeat the Red Cloud Lady Crusaders, 67-40, while the Crow Creek team took third place beating McLaughlin in the consolation game, 67-61.

This tournament saw four days of spirited competition between 16 teams from high schools – Pine Ridge, Red Cloud, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, Todd County, and Little Wound, Tiospa Zina, Takini, Douglas, Marty, Crazy Horse, St. Francis, Standing Rock, McLaughlin and Custer.

Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, coached by Arlyn Wohlleber, had a lower field goal percentage, fewer rebounds, and more team fouls than Red Cloud, but two statistics tell the victory story. Red Cloud committed 32 turnovers to the Lady Braves’ 13, and had only 32 field goal attempts to Cheyenne-Eagle Butte’s 69. CEB dominated the game with a smothering, tenacious defense that so rattled the Lady Crusaders they committed more turnovers in the first half than they attempted field goals. It certainly didn’t help that Red Cloud’s passing and ball handling was tentative, lacking crispness and concentration.

Three players in double figures – Alisha Kingfisher, Amber Laundreaux and tournament MVP Brittany Knife – gave CEB a balanced and multi-faceted scoring threat.

Red Cloud’s offense clearly rested on the shoulders of one player, Jennifer Morrisette, who scored 21 points – more than half of her teams’ offensive output. None of her teammates reached double figures and the next highest scorer, her sister Joni Morrisette, accounted for nine points.

Cheyenne-Eagle Butte held a 16-6 lead after the first quarter, but Red Cloud scored 14 second-quarter points to only 11 from CEB, making the halftime score 37-20. There was hope for a rousing battle to the wire, but when Red Cloud failed to close the gap in the third quarter, it seemed to deflate their confidence and they only managed seven points in the fourth quarter.

The consolation game for third and fourth place was a more suspenseful contest that went into overtime and featured much more physical play. While no one from either team fouled out of the championship game and the two teams had a combined total of 35 fouls, the Crow Creek battle with McLaughlin saw four players foul out and the teams combine for a total of 45 fouls. And there were more the refs either missed or were too exhausted to whistle.

Action and high drama kept this game intense and entertaining from the opening buzzer. McLaughlin led 14-5 at 2:30 of the first quarter, but Crow Creek’s players adjusted, stiffened their defense and 90 seconds later narrowed the score to 16-13.

Quick hands making steals and quick feet taking long, outlet passes livened the second quarter. McLaughlin continued in the lead, but its margin over the Lady Chieftains fluctuated wildly. At 6:00 in the second quarter, Crow Creek had dropped six points behind McLaughlin only to fight back to within one point and then fall back again by seven as the first half ended, 31-24.

Crow Creek turned up the heat offensively in the third quarter, scoring 19 points to McLaughlin’s nine, and took the lead for the first time at 37-36 with 3:48 left in the quarter. The Lady Chieftains had four players in double figures: Summer Harrison with 12 points, Valene Kennedy and Autumn Fallis with 17 points each, and lead scorer Jessica Squirrel Coat with 18 points, including two 3-point baskets. McLaughlin’s output on offense primarily came from two standout players, Brittni Walker and Dani Buechler, each of whom accounted for 25 points.

McLaughlin didn’t break, mentally or physically, and the two teams scrapped to a 55-55 tie at the end of regulation time. Both teams had 10 team fouls, putting them into double bonus status on free throws, and that played a role in the final score. McLaughlin scored the first basket in overtime, but Crow Creek tightened up defense and stayed patient and focused on offense. Halfway through the four-minute overtime it was a one-point game, but Crow Creek made better use of its opportunities at the foul line and pulled away in the last minute to win 67-61.

Some individual awards of note were the choice of Cheyenne-Eagle Butte’s Arlyn Wohlleber as Outstanding Coach, Savannah Morgan as Miss Hustle and Brittany Knife as Most Valuable Player. Also recognized were Laura Big Crow of Pine Ridge for most points scored and Dominique Ten Fingers of Marty who broke the tournament record for three-point goals.

Little Wound won the team cheerleading trophy and Crazy Horse was given the team sportsmanship award.

Besides good basketball competition, the Lakota Nation Invitational tournament is about community and there is always a palpable feeling of friendship and sportsmanship between the teams, fans and cheerleaders. Girls chosen for individual cheerleading awards are sought out and congratulated by members of other schools’ squads. When a player fouls out of a game, it is common to see players from the other team send them off with handshakes of fellowship instead of finger gestures of gloating.

And the public address announcers are always personable as well as professional, coaxing chuckles from the crowd with droll announcements, wry jokes and gently humorous observations on the flow of the games.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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