Local team earns runner-up finish at 15th Annual NABI Invite

Playing some inspired basketball, the Lower Sioux hoops squad earned an impressive second-place finish at the 15th Annual Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) held recently in Maricopa, AZ.

The event – the largest all Native tournament in North America – featured 64 boys and girls teams with players from all across North America and even New Zealand. The tournament helps to get Native American players recognized and connected with collegiate scouts and potential playing opportunities.

The NABI Foundation is a national foundation committed to supporting Native American youth by implementing programs that encourage higher education, sports, health and wellness and community building.

With a strong line-up and experience from having played in the tournament a year ago, the Lower Sioux team headed into the event ready to make a name for themselves. The team – put together by Mason King and coached by Pete Nez – included local players James Pendleton from Redwood Valley, Lewis Pendleton, Andre Larsen, Derek Pendleton and Mason King from CM-Comfrey, Nate Seelye from Grand Rapids, Russel Leader Charge from Rosebud, S.D., Richard Edwards from Las Vegas Prep, Bryce Irsfield from Browerville and Isiah Simon from the Cheyenne River Tribe.

Despite not having much time to practice or play together, the team opened up pool play with an easy 84-53 win over Bird City, Ariz. as Derek Pendleton led a balanced offensive attack (five players in double figures) with 13 points. Following a 59-53 setback to Shades of Red out of Oklahoma, the team opened up Sweet Sixteen play with a 76-55 win over the Tribal Boyz out of Washington State. Simon knocked down seven three pointers to finish with a team-high 21 points.

The team then topped FMD Fort McDowell Pima Tribe out of Arizona, and after getting their best player into early foul trouble would roll to a 67-50 victory. Edwards had 18 points and Seelye 17. With the victory the team would move into the Elite Eight against the Oglala Sioux. It turned out to be a memorable battle with the Lower Sioux coming out on top 81-77 in double overtime.

“We came out with so much intensity and never gave up,” Coach Pete Nez said. “It was a local crowd so they were against us but we weren’t going to back down.”

Seelye would finish with 28 points, Edwards 27 and Irsfield knocked down five three pointers. The win moved the Lower Sioux into the semifinals (final four) where they faced local product Assist Outbreak out of Castle Butte, Ariz. Despite giving up an 11-point second half lead, the team would hold on in overtime for a 63-54 win and a spot in the championship. Edwards had 21 points, Seelye 13, Simon 10 and James Pendleton added six.

In the Gold Division championship, they would face Cheyenne Arapaho out of Oklahoma, a team that had won the tournament five times previously.

“We heard comments that we were going to get beat bad but I was confident in our team,” Nez said.

The Lower Sioux raced out to a 30-8 first half lead but watched as their opponents continued to chip away at the lead, eventually using a strong 2-2-1 press in the second half to rally for a 75-71 win. Edwards would finish with 23 points.

“Of course we were disappointed, but I was proud of our guys,” Nez said. “We definitely gained some respect for Minnesota.”

Coach Nez wanted to thank sponsors of the trip that included the Lower Sioux Indian Community, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Indian Community, the Cheyenne River Indian Tribe, Arrow Embroidery, Scott-Preusse, Runnings and the Redwood Valley Funeral Home.