The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Recreation Department hosted the annual Jingle Jam Basketball Tournament on January 5 in the Salt River Gymnasium. Community members were invited to cheer on their respective teams. The players participated in one of three divisions: boys ages 13–15, boys ages 8–12, and girls ages 8–12.
Phoenix Spartans vs. Native Flight
Playing for the championship in the boys 13–15 division this year were Native Flight and the Phoenix Spartans. This game got off to a quick start and heated up with back-to-back court action, with both teams putting points up early. The Spartans were able to maintain a small lead in the first half of the game, with a score of 25-19. For every 3-point shot from the Spartans, Native Flight answered with impressive rebound capability and 2-pointers. By the second half of the game, the Spartans were able to pull out a more comfortable lead, walking away with the championship and a score of 43-29. The Spartans’ MVP, #21, Buka Mbegbu put up 16 points for his team.
San Carlos Braves vs. Fort McDowell Bulls
The second game of the day was between teams in the boys 8–12 division, where both the San Carlos Braves and Fort McDowell Bulls were able to advance to the final round to face one another for the championship title. The game started out a little more slow paced, with the score even at 12-12 by the end of the first period. It quickly gained momentum with impressive 3-point shots from both teams and assists that added points to the board. The Braves looked to close the deal early by pulling ahead and expanding their lead with a score of 40-24. With less than three minutes left in the game, the Bulls were able to add 5 more points to the board, but it wasn’t enough to catch up to the Braves. The final score was 42-29. Robert “BJ” Burries Jr., #15, contributed 15 of the Braves’ points to the game, while the highest-scoring player from the Bulls contributed 10 points.
Salt River Renegades vs. Gila River Girls
The third and final game of the tournament was between the Salt River Renegades and Gila River Girls from the girls 8–12 division. The game itself was not as fast paced as the prior two, but for what it may have lacked in back-to-back action, it made up for it in excitement and cheering for the home team. It truly was a battle of the rivers, and the ladies left everything out on the floor with back-to-back turnovers, assists and 2-pointers. The Renegades were able to pull out with a small lead during the first half, with a score of 12-7. Though the Gila River Girls were sent to the free-throw line multiple times, they were not able to capitalize on getting the extra points, which could have closed the gap. The final score of the game was 22-18, and the Salt River Renegades won the championship title. “I want to thank and congratulate all the girls for playing as hard as they did to win the championship game and throughout the tournament they are very talented and I’m very proud of all of them,” Coach Robert Ramirez said. “Also congratulations to Shyann Heredia my MVP, and my two all Tourney’s Hio:sik Hill and Julianne Carlisle. Thanks and keep up the good work.”
Championship players from all teams received the title and sweatshirts for participating, and the challengers received T-shirts.