Hoopsters from across Arizona and the United States participated in this year’s Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) July 1-5, which was sponsored by the Ak-Chin Indian Community. The Salt River Lady Warriors, coached by Shawn Lytle and Robert Johnston, played some good ol’ rez ball during the tournament.
The Lady Warriors started in their division playing at Scottsdale Community College against the intertribal Wildfire team. The Lady Warriors did not waste any time on the court and quickly scored numerous points, winning the game 77-33.
Game two for the Lady Warriors took place at Phoenix College against the Navajo team KC Mob. The Lady Warriors went for the ball right away, scoring heavily in the first part of the game and gaining the advantage.
“The team started from friends coming together and wanting to play in the tournament. We also play in little tournaments here and there. Then we all decided to get into the big NABI tournament. Robert Johnston got us in this tournament,” said player Jillanie Humma.
“It’s fun playing with all of these girls. I always enjoy playing in the tournament,” added Humma, who was participating in NABI for the third year.
The Lady Warriors won their third game against KC Mob, 60-34. Then they were pitted against the Hunkpapa Oyate team of the Standing Rock Sioux, playing at Arizona Christian University in North Phoenix.
“This team is actually a great team, we just haven’t exactly figured each other out yet on finding each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Angelica Tso. “We had a hard time in the beginning, but toward the end we started getting better at knowing each other.”
The Lady Warriors dominated their opponents again, 69-35.
“I just like to play rez ball and [I enjoyed] how I connected with the team. This will be my last year to play in the [NABI] games,” said Cherokee Davis. “I feel that I have grown a lot individually as a player, and it’s always been like a family thing because I have always played with cousins and family always comes to watch the games. So it’s like a pride thing within my family.”
Salt River Renegades
Since 2000, Robert Ramirez has been coaching the Salt River Renegades, a well-known basketball team within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. His team was originally created for his four daughters to play on, but over the years it has expanded. This year, the Renegades participated in the 12th annual Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) basketball tournament, held July 1-5 in various gyms throughout the Valley.
After Ramirez’s team expanded, he eventually created three different divisions: high school, junior high and elementary. This would allow girls of all ages to participate and familiarize themselves with the court, the sport and the competition. The players would gain more experience, and hopefully those who wanted to would play at the collegiate level down the road.
“I would like to have all [SRPMIC high school] girls, but that is extremely hard. I think [our team] is pretty good this year. A lot of these girls have played with me when they were younger, some started with us when they were in the third grade. I think this is the first year that we’ll send a couple of our girls to college. We hope to send more to college in the future,” said Ramirez.
This Renegades team consisted of young athletes who had high hopes of becoming the Gold Division champions. The team had 10 varsity players, three of whom are Community members: Mysty Hayes, Joy Manuel and Rebecca Briones. Nine played for the Salt River High School girls basketball team and one played for Westwood High School.
“Our goals are always to improve the girls and make sure they are ready to play for high school basketball. We also hope that some of our girls go on to college with a basketball scholarship. [As a coach], I just want to keep developing their skills, talk to them, keep them out of trouble and make a difference in their lives.”
The Renegades played well together and demonstrated great communication.
They corrected each other’s mistakes and made a single goal of winning the entire tournament. They identified their trouble spots and worked on them during their games. They expressed their goals for the tournament as a team and had plans to win it all.
Each game became more intense as the Renegades moved one step closer to the championship title. “We can win this! Anything can happen,” said Ramirez to his team. The girls found motivation within as they played three teams in the P-Pool play division: AZ Hoops (intertribal), Rockers (MHA Nation) and Lady Shock (Navajo). The Renegades won each game and placed in the No. 1 seat in this pool division.
The Renegades went on to play the Kaala Babies (Crow Nation) and Native Rain (Navajo) in the Gold Division bracket. Unfortunately, the Renegades lost to Native Rain, leaving them three games shy of winning the championship. This was a repeat of last year’s devastating loss, when the same team defeated the Renegades, leaving them with a third-place finish.
“I’m very happy with the way the girls have played throughout the tournament. Everybody has contributed and it makes me feel good because everyone got a chance to play,” said Ramirez.
Salt River Renegades vs. Lady Shock, July 2, final score 53-31
Salt River Renegades vs. Rockers, July 2, final score 47-32
Salt River Renegades vs. AZ Hoops, July 3, final score 38-15
Salt River Renegades vs. Kaala Babies, July 3, final score 47-23
Salt River Renegades vs. Native Rain, July 4, final score 37-43