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Seminole basketball teams shine at NASA tournament

Native Soldiers celebrates after they won the NASA men’s basketball championship in Choctaw, Mississippi. The team included DeForest Carter, Hunter Osceola, Tyler Harjochee, Duelle Gore, Nate Lang and Eric Sanders. (Facebook)

Seminole adult basketball teams generated one of the Tribe’s most successful showings in a NASA tournament. They returned from Choctaw, Mississippi in mid-January with a championship in the men’s regular division, runner-up in the men’s legends and third place in the women’s division.

DeForest Carter, Hunter Osceola, Duelle Gore, Eric Sanders and Nate Lang propelled Native Soldiers to the championship title in the men’s division, which featured 32 teams.

Despite playing the championship game with the bare minimum five players and despite facing a Choctaws’ squad in front of a packed house full of hometown fans, Native Soldiers somehow found enough energy to pull away in the second half for a comfortable victory.

“We were definitely using [timeouts]. Oxygen was a must,” Carter said. “The Choctaws don’t give up. They run you and run you. It was a full house. Everyone was going against us.”

The team lost Tyler Harjochee earlier in the tournament to a shoulder injury.

Native Soldiers reached the championship in impressive fashion that included four mercy rule wins when they were up by at least 30 with 10 minutes left in games. Sanders was the star of one game as he hit nine 3-pointers. Osceola was a standout, especially in the later games.

“Hunter was spectacular for the last three games. He averaged about 30 points. It was a complete effort from the whole team, but Hunter was the catalyst,” Carter said.

The team received a trophy and jackets in a postgame ceremony.

“It’s all about the jackets,” said Carter, who won his first NASA tournament.

Considering most of the players are all in their early-to-mid 20s, more NASA hardware could follow in the years and decades to come.

“Once Legends comes, we’ll take that one, too,” Carter said.

The Seminole Legends men’s squad (ages 40 and up) made an early statement by winning their opening game by about 30 points. They won their next two games, including a nail-biter by two points.

“We had the game by like 19 points and then we slacked off and they almost got us,” said Vince Billie.

The Seminoles advanced to the championship with a 3-0 record thanks in part to the sharp shooting of leading scorer Elton Shore.

The team’s winning ways ended in the championship where they dropped two straight.

“We couldn’t get rebounds,” said Seminoles’ Kenny Tommie, who organized the team. “They were keying our main man, Elton, and following him around, and that was leaving us open, but we couldn’t knock them down.”

Despite losing their final two games in the championship, the Seminoles departed in an upbeat mood. Other players included Gary McInturff, Charlie Tiger, Mahokin Tiger, Daniel Billie, Jonathan Washington, Chris Thomas and Sandy Billie Jr.

“Everything went well. This is the best we’ve done in a long time; it’s usually two-and-out,” Tommie said. “It was good. We had practices every Thursday for 40 and over here in the gym. We try to keep them in shape.”

Tommie said he’s been playing against some of the same opposing players since he was a teenager.

“Everybody knows each other. It’s a little get together to see how everyone is doing. Everyone wants to win,” he said. “I know it’s part of being healthy and having fun.”

In the women’s regular division, the Lady Seminoles finished third. Their squad’s registered roster included Kristen Billie, Lorri Osceola, Kaitlynn Osceola, Kelcie Jumper, Chelsea Mountain, Ariah Osceola, Jewel Buck, Phalyn Osceola and Cara Osceola.

Vince Billie, left, and Kenny Tommie hold the trophy their Legends team won for finishing second at NASA in Choctaw, Mississippi. (Kevin Johnson photo)
The Seminole men’s Legends team proudly holds up the longsleeve shirts they won for finishing runner-up at NASA. From left, Jonathan Washington, Charlie Tiger, Kenny Tommie, Gary McInturff, Vince Billie, Chris Thomas, Sandy Billie Jr. and Elton Shore. Not in the photo: Mahokin Tiger. (Facebook)
Kenny Tommie takes a foul shot for the Seminoles in a men’s Legends game at NASA. (Photo courtesy Joe Collins)
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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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