NWIC wins AIHEC basketball title again

Aug 11th, 2013 | By | Category: 25-1: Art & Symbolism, Tribal College News

THE CHAMPS. The NWIC men’s basketball team poses for the camera after the Eagles defeated OLC in overtime to claim the 2013 AIHEC tournament crown. Photo courtesy

To say the Northwest Indian College (NWIC, Bellingham, WA) men’s basketball team challenged itself this year is to put it mildly. The Eagles’ season was filled with games against much larger schools, including NCAA Division I and Division II teams.

NWIC, the only tribal college in Washington and Idaho, took on larger competitors in hopes that the games would prepare them for the tribal college basketball competition of the year: the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) national basketball tournament. On March 17, the Eagles’ tough season paid off when—for the second consecutive year—the team claimed the championship title at the national tournament held in Cloquet, Minnesota.

The Eagles played Fort Berthold Community College (New Town, ND) in the tournament quarterfinals and won 98-78. That win sent them into a semifinals match up against Salish Kootenai College (SKC, Pablo, MT), whom the Eagles played in AIHEC championship games the past three years. SKC took the title in 2010 and 2011, but were defeated by the Eagles in 2012.

In the tournament this year, the rivals played hard against each other. “I think our guys played their best during the semifinal game against Salish Kootenai College,” said Assistant Coach Adam Lane. “They really came together as a team and played well.” The teamwork paid off and the Eagles beat SKC 114-102. In the final game, the Eagles confronted Oglala Lakota College (OLC, Kyle, SD). “The championship game was a battle from the start,” Lane said. “We had played Oglala Lakota College once and knew that it would be a hard-fought, physical game.” OLC was the Eagles’ toughest opponent, and the score was dead even at the end of the championship game, sending the rivals into overtime. The Eagles ultimately defeated OLC 111-107.

Lane attributed the win to hard work and teamwork, and said that having a large number of players return from last year’s championship team gave the Eagles an edge. “We knew that if we played as well as we are capable, we would be right there at the end with a chance to win,” he said. The Eagles’ Doug Williams was named tournament MVP. “Doug was our leading scorer or one of our top scorers in every game,” Lane said. “He played well on the defensive end as well. He was one of our leading rebounders and also led our team in blocked shots.”

Head Coach Greg Mahle said all the players deserved recognition. “It took the entire team working hard every day to bring home another championship,” Mahle said. “Each and every guy deserves recognition for the commitment they made to each other and becoming a stronger team as the year progressed.”

Mahle thanked NWIC and the Lummi Nation for the team’s big welcome home on March 18, when the players were greeted with a celebratory parade in their honor. He also thanked NWIC president, Justin Guillory, for supporting the team by making the trip to Minnesota for the games.

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