By Kristan Krogman
The 37th annual Lakota Nation Invitational was played in Rapid City last week with the basketball tournament highlighting activities.
The Tiger boys went into the tournament the number one seed. Having won three of the last four tournaments, it was business as usual with a first round win Wednesday. They topped Omaha Nation 76-41 for the win. The Tigers started slow but gradually got rolling and liberal use of the reserves kept everyone fresh for the remainder of the tournament.
The second round game versus Oelrichs, a rematch from last year’s Region final, was highly anticipated and closely contested. Tavis Burbank kept the Tigers going early with seven of the team’s first thirteen points. Christian Bartlett also had a big first half with fifteen points. Though Oelrichs led through most of the first half, the Tigers led 34-32 at intermission. Oelrichs built a six point lead early in the second half, but threes by Link Tucker (2), Justice Morrison, and Tre Iyotte later made the score 53-49. It was closely contested down the stretch, but the Tigers held on. They won 65-59.
The semi-final game against Cheyenne-Eagle Butte was another close one. The Tigers led by eight, 19-11, in the first half, though the Braves kept up the fight. It was a 26-21 game at half time. Sloppy play was infectious as both teams recorded multiple turnovers as the second half progressed. Rebounding became an issue for both teams as well, though it was a number of offensive rebounds that resulted in points, spurring Cheyenne-Eagle Butte to a 49-43 lead. Iyotte returned the lead to the Tigers at 56-54 with just under a minute remaining. Winning 57-54, the Tigers played themselves into the final round for another chance at the title.
Pine Ridge and White River met in the finals, a low scoring game that could have gone either way. The Thorpes matched the Tigers in speed and size and kept the inside bottled up with a zone that covered the outside as well. Burbank had eight points in the first half to lead the Tigers and his aggressive play lent to an 18-11 lead late in half number one. Pine Ridge scored the final six points of the half and they led 21-20 at the break. Play favored Pine Ridge in the second half and though they led by just six at the six minute mark, the momentum was clearly in their favor. They led by ten with just over three minutes to go, though Burbank cut it to six around the two minute mark with a three point play that made it 46-40. That was as close as the Tigers would get, and they went down 53-46.
On the girls side, the Lady Tigers finished 6th in the tournament. They opened round one with a late game versus Crow Creek. White River played well, getting a double digit win, 56-41.
A first round win sent them to the Makosica Bracket where top seeded Pine Ridge awaited. Guards Santana White Dress and Shaylene Richard were a tough combo for White River. The Tigers struggled with the scrappy defensive of Pine Ridge and the Lady Thorpe pressure left them converting on many easy baskets. The Tigers netted just 4 points in the second half and went down 19-80.
The Little Wound game on Friday was an exciting one that saw the Lady Tigers facing a first half deficit of fourteen early on. They scored eight unanswered, though, to close the half and the momentum carried into the second half. Back to back threes by Dusti Good Shield gave the Tigers their first lead, 46-45, and Casey Fairbanks hit two free throws for a 59-50 lead with close to five minutes to go. White River maintained their lead down the stretch, and despite a game high 34 by Little Wound freshman Janay Jumping Eagle, the Tigers got the win 71-65. Jaye Bear Heels paced the Tigers with 21.
White River and McLaughlin met in the 5th/6th place game early Saturday. White River had the advantage at the start and led by two at half time. McLaughlin was better in the second half and the Lady Tigers ran out of steam. Down 44-31 midway through the second half, the deficit slowly increased. Bear Heels and Good Shield both scored in double figures for the Tigers but it wasn’t enough. They lost 66-43.