BIG CYPRESS — A packed parking lot in front of the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium served as a good indication to the popularity of the eighth annual Tigertail Brothers Memorial Basketball Tournament.
This year’s tournament drew the most participants in its history.
Vehicles filled all the parking spaces and the grassy perimeter for the adult men’s division, which attracted 14 teams and about 100 players to Big Cypress on the final day of the Sept. 17-19 tournament. Opening night drew seven legends teams for the 40-and-above crowd. The following night, three teams vied for the adult women’s title.
“The turnout is pretty good this year,” tournament organizer Minnie Tigertail said. “We have 24 teams. That’s the most I’ve had. I’m so glad they’re all enjoying it.”
The tournament is held in memory of Minnie’s sons: Duane and Malcolm.
“My sons loved to play basketball. They participated in tournaments on the rez and off the rez,” Minnie said.
Each year Minnie changes the design and colors of the tournament T-shirts. The 2015 edition featured yellow shirts with tournament information on the front, Duane and Malcolm’s names on opposite shoulder sleeves, and photos of them on the back accompanied with a passage from Psalm 119: 113: “Direct my footsteps according to your Word; Let no sin rule over me.”
The tournament began on a winning note for Minnie, her sister Mary Tigertail and the rest of the Real Legends team. They captured the women’s legends championship with wins against the Young Legends and the Magic.
“The older team beat the younger team,” Minnie said.
The Real Legends consisted of Nadine Bowers, Carla Gopher, Rita McCabe, Cassandra Osceola, Nora Osceola, Mary Tigertail, Minnie Tigertail and Vodne Whiteskunk-Chapoose.
The Miami All Timers, a non-Tribal team, won the men’s legends title. The defending champion Lady Ballers retained the adult women’s title with two wins and no losses.
The adult men’s division featured a marathon of nearly 30 games that started Sept. 18 and continued throughout the next day. Show Time won the championship.
The tournament serves as a competitive weekend for a range of players, including former college players and those who aspire to play in college.
“I like it. There’s some good competition,” said Andre Poux, a 6-foot-7 forward who played for the University of Maine at Fort Kent and now suits up for the Miami Midnites’ semi-pro team with hopes of playing overseas. “I’m trying to get to Russia, or somewhere like that. This helps me keep in shape and get exposure. You meet all different kinds of people.”
Facing experienced, older players has its benefits, said Trewston Pierce, of the Hollywood Reservation.
“It toughens me up,” said Pierce, a Division I college prospect who earned All-Broward County First Team honors at Fort Lauderdale High School last season and now plays for IMG Academy’s National team in Bradenton.
Players on all championship teams received hooded sweatshirts.