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Seminole teams thrive in Arizona

The 1Fire team, which featured mostly players from the Seminole and Miccousukee Tribes, pose with the runner-up trophy after finishing second in the Silver Division at NABI on July 1 at Maricopa High School in Maricopa, Arizona. (Photo courtesy Ak-Chin Runner)
The 1Fire team, which featured mostly players from the Seminole and Miccousukee Tribes, pose with the runner-up trophy after finishing second in the Silver Division at NABI on July 1 at Maricopa High School in Maricopa, Arizona. (Photo courtesy Ak-Chin Runner)

Seminole basketball teams made the most out of a cross country trek with a pair of top three finishes at the annual Native American Basketball Invitational.

The Seminoles girls team shined the brightest in the Arizona desert by reaching the semifinals of the Gold Division in a tournament that featured 60 teams June 26-July 2.

“The team’s full court press and up-tempo style quickly wore down teams in the desert heat,” said Seminoles coach Andrew Jordan Bowers. “The turnovers created off of the press created easy buckets for the team. When we were required to execute in the half court Skyla [Osceola] and Shae [Pierce] were hard to stop.”

The Seminoles team included two Choctaws from Mississippi and one Miccosukee.

The Seminoles tore through pool play, winning their three games by margins of 22, 25 and 30 points. They encountered tougher foes in the playoff round, but didn’t flinch. The Seminoles topped South Dakota’s Fighting Sioux, 37-33, and beat Idaho’s NM Lady Warriors to reach the Final Four before they were tripped up by Nevada’s Nettripperz, 42-37. Nettripperz went on to win the Gold championship – the tournament’s highest honor – 73-69 against Montana’s Big Sky Freeze.

Standouts for the Seminoles throughout the tournament included Skyla Osceola, Shae Pierce and Sydney Cypress.
“Skyla was unstoppable inside and Shae attacked the basket every game and finished at the rim. Sydney set the tone on defense for the team each game,” Bowers said.

In the semifinal, Skyla produced another determined effort.

“Skyla played her heart out as she played every minute of the game,” Bowers said. “She personally tried to will the team to the championship as Shae struggled to find her shot in the second half following a hard foul.”

Thanks to a 5-1 record and appearance in the Final Four, the Seminoles departed in an upbeat mood and already looking forward to next year’s tournament.

“I am extremely proud of how well the team played,” Bowers said. “The team was comprised of juniors, sophomores, freshmen, and eighth-graders. As long as the team stays together they will be a favorite to win next year.”

On the boys side, 1Fire, whose roster featured mostly Seminoles and Miccosukee players, didn’t look like they would make much noise. 1Fire lost its first two games in pool play, but suddenly found their groove. A 3-point victory in the final pool game spawned a five-game winning streak and an appearance in the Silver Division championship.

1Fire head coach Josh Boromei said the sluggish start might have been due to the team’s lack of practice time before the tournament.

“The first two games were practice games, I guess, but at NABI every game counts,” he said.

The losses prevented 1Fire from reaching the Gold Division, but they made an impressive run in the Silver Division where they won four games by fairly comfortable margins of 14, 16, 8 and 10 points.

1Fire’s quest for a title fell short with a 65-44 loss to Northern AZ Elite in the championship game.

Being part of a championship game at NABI was nothing new for Boromei, who was a guard on the Seminole squad that captured the boys Gold Division crown two years ago.

“It was nice just to be out there again. You get a lot more into it,” Boromei said about his coaching experience.

Quick point guard Charlie Osceola and sharp-shooting guard Ethan Cypress were among the offensive standouts for 1Fire. Boromei said Charlie scored about 27 points in one game and Ethan was consistently notching 20-plus point games.

Boromei said the team was confident it would win the final, but lost some steam toward the end.
“We were sure we were going to win,” he said. “We were up by 10 until the last six minutes, then the boys lost their energy. It would have been nice to win it, but the boys had fun.”

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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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