BIG CYPRESS/HOLLYWOOD — The Tigertail Brothers ninth annual Memorial Basketball Tournament keeps getting bigger each year. In fact, this year an additional gym was required because so many teams signed up.
While most games and all the championships were held at the tournament’s usual location — the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium in Big Cypress — a few games shifted to the Howard Tiger Recreation Center in Hollywood. That’s what happens when nearly 30 teams participate in a tournament that was open to Native and non-Native squads.
The tournament’s rise in popularity coincided with DeForest Carter’s first year of being heavily involved in the tournament planning with Big Cypress Recreation. Carter has always played in the tournament, but now that his collegiate playing days are done he had time to recruit teams and players.
“Now I have the time to devote into this tournament,” Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s all-time leader in assists and steals said on the opening night of the three-day tournament Sept. 15. “We’ve got it to 29 teams, which I think is the most it’s ever been. I’m able to pour in the passion I brought from school for this tournament and my family.”
The tournament, which is held each year in memory of Duane Tigertail and Malcolm Tigertail, has always carried special meaning for Carter.
“They were both my uncles,” he said. “I got to play with my Uncle Duane when I was younger. I’d come to the gym and I’d see him in here, sometimes by himself shooting around. I really took inspiration from my Uncle Duane. I watched him play in some of the tournaments.”
Members of the Tigertail family participated in the presentations of championship and runner-up awards each night.
“We’re still close playing basketball. My mom [Myra] was out there playing. Basketball is always going to run in our blood,” Carter said. “Everyone says it’s a little rez tournament, but it’s bigger than that when it’s for your family. You want to honor them and play for them. That’s what I feel like every year when I play in this.”
This year Carter’s team didn’t reach the championship game in the men’s adult division for ages 18-39. The Plainzmen burned the midnight oil to capture the championship with a 76-58 win against A Team in a game that finished about 2 a.m. The long day of work was worth it for the Plainzmen.
“This tournament is getting better and better every year,” said Plainzmen veteran forward Jess Hart, who led the team with 19 points.
The Plainzmen also received strong performances from Jerel Moore, who scored 12 points in the first half and finished with 14, and Adam Hunt, who also drained 14.
Most of the Plainzmen are Natives from South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa. Point guard George Grey, a non-Native from Miami, joined the team for the first time at the tournament and enjoyed the experience.
“They’re cool people. I like their spirit. They push it and shoot it. That’s my kind of basketball,” Grey said.
Team Immokalee finished third on the men’s side, which drew 17 teams.
The Lady Ballers won the women’s adult title behind 27 points from Angel Goodrich and four 3-pointers from Katie Plumley in their 63-45 win against the Outlaws. Amy Patton scored 12 points for the Outlaws. Ashley Mitchell hit three 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 14 points. Third place went to Shots Fired.
A squad from Palm Beach County known as PBBC claimed the men’s legends championship with a 35-27 win against Miami Old Tymers. Motown finished in third place.
The Lady Legends swept both games against the Noles in the women’s adult legends division, which featured just two teams. Francine Osceola scored six points and Margaret Gates scored four points to lead the Lady Legends to a 15-10 win in the clincher. Myra Jumper scored five points for the Noles.