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Court champions crowned at Herman L. Osceola tourney

Hunter Osceola leads a fast break for the New Breed team March 19 in the Herman L. Osceola Basketball Tournament in Big Cypress. New Breed won the men’s division.
Hunter Osceola leads a fast break for the New Breed team March 19 in the Herman L. Osceola Basketball Tournament in Big Cypress. New Breed won the men’s division.

BIG CYPRESS — The sounds of bouncing basketballs, referee whistles and squeaks from sneakers ceased for a few minutes during the 31st annual Herman L. Osceola Basketball Tournament in the Big Cypress gymnasium that bears his name.

The break in action March 19 came on the final day of the three-day tournament as Herman’s family, including his mother, Ruby, gathered on the court with Jeffrey Brodeur, a past national director of the Korean War Veterans Association. A year ago, Brodeur presented Ruby with Herman’s Korea Defense Service Medal. This year he gave her a limited edition piece of wire fencing from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates South and North Korea.

“Herman died for his brothers. That’s what he is to me, a brother,” Brodeur said.

Brodeur never met Herman, but he has become familiar with Herman’s story ever since he saw his statue in front of the gym while driving through the reservation.

“When I first saw the statue … I knew he died in Beirut or Korea. That’s exactly the same gear we used at that period of time in the ’80s,” said Brodeur, who served in the Army.

When Brodeur saw the date of Herman’s death on the statue – March 24, 1984 – he immediately knew what had happened to the 23-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal.

“I remember when the chopper went down. I was with the 25th Division at that time,” Brodeur said. “We were told the chopper was actually shot down by the North Koreans and we were put on alert to go over there. We were on alert for about two weeks …”

Brodeur is part of a national effort to build a memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor those who served and died on the Korean Peninsula since an armistice was signed in 1953.

“We’re hoping to get the bill passed this year, to be put in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll pass the bill and we’ll erect the memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Brodeur said 1,250 Americans – including Herman L. Osceola – have died in Korea postwar.

“We’ll never forget what the guys did during the war; they’re real heroes, but Herman’s life matters, too,” Brodeur said.

As for the basketball tournament, action began on day one with the Legends Division for ages 40 and up. Hollywood Heat proved to be the class of the three men’s teams. The Heat outlasted Big School, 39-29, in the championship.

“We get together and we get to have fun. No one got hurt; that’s the key at this point,” said Heat forward Max Osceola III, who scored 11 points, including a 3-pointer just before halftime that put the Heat ahead for good, 24-21.

Smooth-shooting Vince Billie was a 3-point scoring machine for the Heat throughout the night. Billie had nine points in the final. He didn’t miss in the first half of an earlier game when he sank five 3-pointers before halftime.

“He’s always been able to shoot good,” Osceola III said. “I was talking to him before and I asked him if he was ready and he said he didn’t know, but I knew he was ready. You just have to give him the right spot and he’s good. Once he’s set, he’s in there.”

Osceola III and Billie were joined by Robert Landon, Kenny Tommie and Charlie Tiger in leading the Heat to the title.

With just four players, shorthanded Big School faced an uphill battle in all of their games. A gutsy performance earned them a spot in the final. Preston Baker scored 14 points in a win against Cicero’s Team, and Elton Shore knocked down 17 points in the championship.

“We were missing a couple people. It was a struggle. We ran out of gas at the end,” said Big School guard Chris Hulbutta.

Cicero’s Team, led by Big Cypress Councilman Cicero Osceola, finished third.

The women’s Legends featured two teams and nine players. The BC Ladies had just four players. The Young Legends had five players, but opted to play with four in order to continue the tournament.

“We decided to play with four because we wanted to play,” said Young Legends’ Geraldine Osceola.

The teams split their first two games, but the winner-take-all third game was canceled when BC Ladies were unable to continue because of an injury. Young Legends, with Shirley Clay, Faye Cypress, Stacey Jones, Geraldine Osceola and Wimberly Raban, were declared the champions.

Two days later, two more champions were crowned in the Adult Division. Hunter Osceola and Trewston Pierce were among the offensive standouts that led a stacked New Breed squad to the men’s title in a division that featured five teams. New Breed, which went undefeated, also included DeForest Carter, Greg Carter, Dylan Isaacs and Dillon Thomas. Soul Clean finished runner-up.

On the women’s side, 3-point specialist Jenna Plumley scored 28 points as the Sharpshooters cruised past We Got Next, 56-24, in the championship. Shae Pierce scored 12 points for the Sharpshooters, who also featured Sydney Cypress, Ashley Mitchell, Chelsea Mountain, Ariah Osceola and Tasha Osceola.

The Sharpshooters captured the title despite nearly not having enough players to field a team. They had to recruit Mountain at the last minute just to start with four players.

“The team needed help, so I said I would help,” Mountain said.

Toward the end of the first game, other Sharpshooters arrived. Mitchell flew to Florida from Arizona just in time to suit up for the champions.

 

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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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