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Native Soldiers girls earn spot in NABI championship

The Native Soldiers girls basketball team at the Native American Basketball Invitational, July 12, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo Darin Sicurello)

The Native Soldiers girls basketball team, coached by Skyla Osceola of the Hollywood Reservation, is one win away from capturing the 18th annual Native American Basketball Invitational and earning an invitation to attend the NBA Finals.

Saturday’s girls championship between Native Soldiers and NM Elite (New Mexico) will be livestreamed on www.nabi.network at 12 p.m. (MST), 3 p.m. (ET)  from Camelback High School in Phoenix. The boys championship between Oklahoma Runners and Young Guns (Washington State) will follow at 1:30 p.m. (MST), 4:30 p.m. (ET). The games were originally slated to be held at Phoenix Suns Arena, but the Suns will be hosting Milwaukee that night in game 5 of the NBA Finals. The girls and boys champions will be invited to attend the Suns-Bucks game thanks to Robert Shippy, owner of a construction firm, who is underwriting tickets to the game.

Lexi Foreman leads a fastbreak for the Native Soldiers against HoopDreamz in the Native American Basketball Invitational, July 12, 2021, at Camelback High School in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo Darin Sicurello)

Native Soldiers, whose players are from Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi and Oklahoma, has been on an impressive run throughout the tournament. They’ll enter the final with a perfect 9-0 record.  In their first eight games, the closest margin of victory was 28 points, but they overcame a strong challenge Friday morning from NM Elite to reach the final. The final will feature a rematch between the teams.

Native Soldiers trailed by 10 points at halftime, but roared back to win, 64-62, and clinch a spot in the final.

“I was really proud of my girls,” Osceola said. “Our defensive effort is what really won us the game.”

Offensively, she attributed the second half comeback to “finding the best shot for ourselves.”

The victory came a few hours after Native Soldiers opened their day with a 94-56 win against Legendary Elite (Oklahoma). On Thursday, Native Soldiers cruised past Lady Thunder (North Dakota), 89-37, and Run N Gun (Arizona), 83-40.

Native Soldiers is the lone Florida-based team in the girls division. The boys division featured two teams from Florida: N2Deep, which went 7-2; and Native Soldiers, which finished 4-4. N2Deep is coached by Preston Baker from the Brighton Reservation; the Native Soldiers’ boys team is coached by Skyla Osceola’s brother, Hunter. Their father, Marl, is an assistant coach for both Native Soldiers squads.

Check back on the Tribune website for coverage of all the teams plus the girls championship game. The July 30 issue of the Tribune will have a complete wrap-up.

Road to the girls final

7/12:     Native Soldiers 101, Kirtland X-Press 29 (pool)

              Native Soldiers 65, HoopDreamz 37 (pool)

7/13:     Native Soldiers 94, Girls on Fire 39 (pool)

              Native Soldiers 81, So Paiute 26

7/14:     Native Soldiers 99, Lady Dream 23

7/15:     Native Soldiers 89, Lady Thunder 37

             Native Soldiers 83, Run N Gun 40

7/16:     Native Soldiers 95, Legendary Elite 56

             Native Soldiers 64, NM Elite 62

7/17:     Native Soldiers vs NM Elite, championship, 12 p.m. (MST),  3 p.m. (ET)

Native Soldiers (FL) vs HoopDreamz (AZ), July 12, 2021, at NABI in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo Darin Sicurello)
Native Soldiers (FL) vs HoopDreamz (AZ), July 12, 2021, at NABI in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo Darin Sicurello)
Native Soldiers (FL) vs HoopDreamz (AZ), July 12, 2021, at NABI in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Darin Sicurello)
Native Soldiers (FL) vs HoopDreamz (AZ), July 12, 2021, at NABI in Phoenix, Arizona. (PhotoDarin Sicurello)
Native Soldiers (FL) vs HoopDreamz (AZ), July 12, 2021, at NABI in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo Darin Sicurello)
Native Soldiers (FL) vs HoopDreamz (AZ), July 12, 2021, at NABI in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo Darin Sicurello)
Native Soldiers (FL) vs HoopDreamz (AZ), July 12, 2021, at NABI in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo Darin Sicurello)
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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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