The path to winning the NASA men’s basketball championship was filled with challenges for the South Florida Young Bulls even before they stepped onto the court at the Seneca Nation of Indians’ Cattaraugus Community Center.
Some members of the team, whose six-man roster included Seminoles’ Trewston Pierce, Ty Pierce and Eric Sanders Jr., drove 19 hours from Florida, including through a snow storm, to the Seneca territory just a few miles from the shore of Lake Erie in upstate New York.
They made the adventurous trek worthwhile by going undefeated, including a 102-95 triumph against a team from Mississippi in the championship game Jan. 20 in what turned out to be a very successful tournament for the Seminole Tribe. On the women’s side, the Lady Seminoles, loaded with Seminole players, won the women’s championship. They also didn’t lose a game.
The Young Bulls were only formed as a team close to the registration deadline. Sanders, who organized the squad, said the last minute decision to enter the tournament left them unable to get a flight to New York so driving was the only other option.
“We had to drive up and we hit a snow storm in West Virginia. I couldn’t see anything,” said Sanders, who drove in snow for the first time in his life.
The players arrived safely at the tournament and quickly went to work on the court. With the Pierce brothers and Sanders along with the Oglala Sioux’s Jess Heart, who lives on the Hollywood Reservation, and the tall Seneca brother-tandem of Billy Brooks and Derren Brooks, the Young Bulls won all five of their games, most by comfortable margins.
“Everybody contributed. It was a team effort,” Sanders said.
Heart was the star of the championship game by pouring in 44 points. The Pierces each had 20-plus point games. The Young Bulls built a big lead early and then fought off a comeback.
“It was a good game,” Sanders said. “We jumped out on them at first. They made a run and then we clamped down on defense.”
Ty was the team’s most consistent scorer while Trewston provided plenty of highlight-reel material with dunks and alley-oops.
Sanders said the team plans on trying to defend their title next year.
“We’re looking forward to going to North Carolina,” he said.
The Lady Seminoles championship team consisted of Krystle Young, Jewel Buck, Kaitlynn Osceola, Lorri Osceola, Ariah Osceola, Kelcie Jumper, Courtney Osceola and Tasha Osceola. The team compiled an unblemished 4-0 record. Ariah and Kaitlynn were among the top scorers for a squad that could be a force at NASA for years to come.
“Even though NASA was the first tournament the all-Seminole Tribal member team played together as adults, the performance and chemistry at NASA showed confidence in each other and the outcome was an undefeated record,” Courtney Osceola said.