Game coverage: Gila River tops AZ Future in NABI opener
July 20, 2018
Aaron J. Tothsoni
Gila River Indian News
After emerging as Pool E’s top seed, Gila River opened up division 2 bracket play with a 71-60 win over AZ Future from Mesa at the 16th annual Native American Basketball Invitational at Maricopa High School on July 12.
During NABI games the teams played two 20-minutes halves with a running clock.
Gila River opened the game on a 11-0 scoring run fueled by Nickolas Harrison and Anthony Escalante with four points apiece during the run. They played an up-tempo game forcing steals and getting out in transition.
AZ Future ended their scoring drought with 13:27 left in the first half scoring back-to-back baskets but Escalante and Harrison responded with a lay-up and three-pointer, respectively.
A five-point swing by Robin Whittaker put Gila River up 21-11 with 9:12 left in the first half.
The Gila River team continued to add to their point total doubling up AZ Future, 26-13, on a three-pointer. Gila River took a 16-point lead on an Escalante trey but AZ Future scored five straight points to cut into the lead.
Wesley Cooper ended the first half with four free-throws for Gila River. They led 35-20 at halftime.
Gila River opened up the second half continuing to play pressure defense. A steal and play up by Jara Amador with 16:04 left in the game pushed Gila River to a 17-point lead. But in a fast-paced ‘rez ball’ style game, AZ Future started to mount a comeback.
After a Harrison drive to the basket for a 16-point lead with 13:31 left in the game, AZ Future’s Logan drained a three-pointer. Harrison responded on the other end with a three-pointer but Logan drained back-to-back three-pointers to get within 51-41.
With 9:55 left in the game, Logan brought AZ Future within single digits, after being fouled shooting a three-pointer and draining three free-throws.
With the game on the line, Gila River turned to the dynamic duo of Harrison and Escalante who scored the team’s final 18-points over an eight-minute span. During the final stretch, Escalante added 10 points.
Leading Gila River was Escalante’s 29 points and Harrison added 22.
Gila River continued in bracket play, topping Ak-Chin 63-54.
They were stopped in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Team Indigenous, from Shawnee, Okla., 78-60 ending their NABI run.
Gila River was coached by Rudy Flores and team members included Harrison, Escalante, Whittaker, Amador, Wesley Cooper, Malachi Case, Joseph Juan, Timothy Curley, Zachary Lupe, Isaac Lupe and Allen June.