GRIC teams and athletes compete in the 16th Annual NABI tournament
July 20, 2018
Aaron J. Tohtsoni
Gila River Indian News
The 16th annual Native American Basketball Invitational took place from July 8-14 in Maricopa and Casa Blanca before concluding at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix and featured 128 teams spread across four divisions battling for championship trophies.
Teams came from as far as Alaska, Canada, Florida, New York, North and South Dakota, respectively with goals of claiming the championship from the world’s largest Native American basketball tournament.
The Community was represented on a couple of teams in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions.
In the girl’s division was Gila River that was coached by Ronald Paul. A couple of Community members also competed with the Ak-Chin girls’ basketball team.
In the boy’s division, there were a few teams from the Community and a few teams that featured players from the Community. There was Gila River, GR Hawks, Three Nations and 21st Natives that competed in both division 1 and Division 2.
21st Natives were in Pool A of division 2 and fell to LHoops-FMD, Team Jordan and eventual tournament champions, Team Indigenous. In bracket play, Oklahoma Tushka eliminated them from bracket play with a 77-42 win.
Three Nations, based out of Sells, competed in Division 1 and finished in a three-way tie for second place in Pool H with a 1-2 record. They defeated Chaos, 66-59, but fell to Seneca Chiefs and Cheyenne-Arapaho. In bracket play, they dropped a close game to Tribal Boyz, 70-66.
GR Hawks, coached by Stan Pratt, competed in Pool F of Division 2. They played Oklahoma Tushka (64-70), Intertribal CA (40-61) and Team Revolution (54-59). In bracket play, they fell to a NAZ Elite from Flagstaff, 57-41.
Gila River, coached by Rudy Flores, claimed the top seed from Division 2, Pool E sweeping Six Nations from Canada (51-41), San Lucy Cobras (84-41) from Gila Bend and Fort Yuma (66-32) from Winterhaven, Calif.
Emerging as the top seed from Pool E, Gila River opened bracket play with a 71-60 victory over AZ Future from Mesa. They followed that win up by dismissing Ak-Chin 63-54.
In the quarterfinals, Gila River was knocked out of the tournament by eventual Division 2 champion Team Indigenous, 78-60.
In addition to playing in the tournaments, the athletes attended “NABI Night” at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center and attended college and career fairs. According to NABI, the tournament was formed to inspire Native youth to pursue higher education and create college scholarship opportunities.
The Gila River Indian Community was one of the major donators to the tournament and the Vah Ki Multipurpose Gymnasium was used as a facility for games.