OLC’s Lady Bravehearts are AIHEC national champs of 2012

Feb 21st, 2013 | By | Category: 24-3: The Science of Place, Tribal College News
LADY BRAVEHEARTS. The Oglala Lakota College Lady Bravehearts include, fromleft: (Back row) Coach Mary Tobacco, Cendedra Morrison, Erin Brave Heart, Delia BigBoy, Alyssa Look Twice, Bekka Ten Fingers, (Front row), Steph Cuny, DesiraeBlacksmith, and Ashley Bagola.

LADY BRAVEHEARTS. The Oglala Lakota College Lady Bravehearts include, from left: (Back row) Coach Mary Tobacco, Cendedra Morrison, Erin Brave Heart, Delia BigBoy, Alyssa Look Twice, Bekka Ten Fingers, (Front row), Steph Cuny, DesiraeBlacksmith, and Ashley Bagola.

Led by freshmen from Pine Ridge Reservation schools, the Oglala Lakota College (OLC, Kyle, SD) Lady Bravehearts basketball team won the 31st American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) National Basketball Championship.

The AIHEC National Championship is the single biggest basketball competition of the year for tribal colleges and universities, and, although not all tribal colleges and universities sponsor teams, 2012’s championship was the biggest tournament in recent history.

In the first round of pool play, held at Black Hills State University’s Young Center, the Lady Bravehearts, led by freshmen Alyssa Looks Twice from Little Wound High School (LWHS), Bekka Ten Fingers from Pine Ridge High School (PRHS), and Cenedra Morrison from Red Cloud High School (RCHS), defeated Fort Peck Community College (FPCC, Poplar, MT) 55-41. Looks Twice scored 23, Ten Fingers 19, Morrison five, and sophomore Desirae Blacksmith added five points.

Later in the day, OLC, once again led by the freshmen trio, defeated the defending champions, the Mighty Mikinocks from Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC, Belcourt, ND) 62-38. Once again, Looks Twice scored 23 and Ten Fingers 19, while Morrison and Blacksmith each contributed 10.

On Friday, continuing with pool play in the Ice Arena, OLC lost a close one to the Bison from Salish Kootenai College (SKC, Pablo, MT) 38-39. Leading scorers were Looks Twice with 14, Ten Fingers with 10, and Morrison with 10.

After that loss, OLC entered the tournament as the number three seed from pool two and faced Northwest Indian College (NWIC, Bellingham, WA), the second seed from pool one. The Lady Bravehearts, led by Ten Fingers’ 28 points, Looks Twice’s 21 points, and Blacksmith’s 15, handily defeated Northwest by a score of 77- 46. Morrison contributed nine points in that victory.

In the semifinal game, the Lady Bravehearts met the overall number one seed, Salish Kootenai College. In a hard-fought battle, OLC defeated SKC 63-59. Looks Twice led all scorers with 34 points followed by Ten Fingers’ 14 and Blacksmith’s 11. In the championship game, played on Sunday afternoon, the Lady Bravehearts defeated the Bearpaws from Stone Child College (SCC, Box Elder, MT) 56-52. Looks Twice scored 16 and fouled out with 4:06 left in the game. Bekka Ten Fingers, who averaged 18 points throughout the week, scored 17. Desirae Blacksmith contributed eight points, including two crucial free throws in the remaining seconds to secure the lead. Other scorers were Erin Brave Heart with eight, Cenedra Morrison with five, and Delia Big Boy with two. Steph Cuny did not score but contributed valuable minutes of defense and rebounding.

Although winning the national championship is a notable feat, which has not been accomplished by OLC since 1999, what is truly remarkable about the Lady Bravehearts basketball team is its composition and the team’s sacrifice, commitment, and competitive drive.

The Lady Bravehearts roster includes Bekka Ten Fingers, PRHS, LNI Champion, South Dakota State A Girls Champion; Desirae Blacksmith, RCHS, with two appearances in the SD state tournament; Alyssa Looks Twice, LWHS, Lakota Country Times’ MVP; Delia Big Boy, PRHS varsity letter winner; Steph Cuny, Erin Brave Heart, and Ashley Phelps, PRHS, with no high school experience; and Cenedra Morrison, RCHS, with only high school sophomore playing experience.

The Lady Bravehearts sacrificed time, traveling between 70 to 120 miles to attend practices on weeknights and weekdays; they traveled these distances after their classes were over at 8 p.m. and they gave up nearly every weekend for five months to play basketball.

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