Story and photos submitted by Vanessa Lechuga
On Friday, February 21, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Recreational Services–Athletics Division tipped off its annual Junior High Basketball Tournament at the Way of Life Facility. The seventh- and eighth-grade tournament had six teams in the Boys Division and six teams in the Girls Division. Teams battled throughout the course of Friday evening and Saturday.
For the Boys Division, the teams Casa Blanca Ballerz and Ba’ag played on Saturday afternoon for a chance at the championship game. Ba’ag took third place, with players O’Shea Bonner, Sha’Sean Begaye, Michael Patrick and Antonio Ibarra receiving honorable mentions. Casa Blanca Ballerz advanced to the championship, where they re-matched Ba’ag Gold, a team they had played earlier in the day and fell short to with a 28-34 finish, putting them in Bracket L and giving them an extra game for the day. D’only Michael and Snyder White consistently helped the Casa Blanca Ballerz finish in second place, falling short to Ba’ag Gold in a 42-36 finish.
Ba’ag Gold and coach Miyone Roanhorse showed up on Friday evening to win their first game against Ba’ag, who eliminated Ba’ag Silver and the Gila River Hawks from the tournament and showed potential with coach Rito Lopez on the sidelines. Kenny White, No. 14 Jair, Kylen Bonner and Beau Burns Jr. were all consistent contributors to the three-game win to become the 2020 Junior High School Boys Champions. Burns received MVP for the Ba’ag Gold team.
For the Girls Division, Az Cats and Lady Soldiers battled for the spot to play NWT in the championship game. Az Cats took third place with No. 32 MacKenzie and No. 3 Jaeda being honorable mentions as they helped eliminate Lady Ba’ag and Lady Rebels from the tournament. Lady Soldiers and coach Delmar Fuson advanced to tip off against NWT on Saturday afternoon with Alyssa Harris, Ahmya Freeland and Kenya Blie helping take second place in the tournament with a 42-29 finish. NWT won the Girls Division, with coach Jerry Jones on the sidelines. Alicia Ibarra, Jada Brown and Diya Chee (MVP) won special recognition for NWT’s three-game win to become the 2020 Junior High School Girls Champions.