The last team standing; Young Guns ride wave of momentum to this year’s NABI Championship
PHOENIX, Ariz. – Never in the 18 years of the Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) tournament has a team from the Pacific Northwest won the whole thing.
That would all change this summer as the up and coming Young Guns crashed everybody’s party.
The Guns coached by Colville tribal member Travis Adams would go on to beat the heavily favored Oklahoma Runners 61-56 (July 17) in the boys NABI championship game to capture their first title before a packed house at Camelback High School.
“Helping guide these boys to a national championship means a lot,” says Adams.
“We wanted to bring the championship trophy back to the northwest for the first time ever.”
It was a surreal feeling for Adams as those final seconds ticked away late in the fourth quarter.
“With so much on my mind the whole game it's hard to remember most of the game but I do remember the moment the buzzer went off all I could think is we are National Champions!” Adams said.
The Young Guns held a 16-point lead (50-34) with about 12 minutes remaining but slowly the Runners crept back into the game and would get to within two points (56-54) with 2:31 left in the game.
“I could feel the momentum shifting,” said Adams. “All I could do is keep telling my guys to stay calm and keep playing our game.”
The Young Guns would weather the storm, holding off a late fourth quarter rally by the Runners, ending the game on a 5-2 run.
“We battled it out for what seemed like forever,” said Adams as the final seconds tecked away, he and the Guns ran to center court and began celebrating.
“Jayce [Pakootas] ripped down the rebound and held the ball as the time expired, the buzzer went off and it was an all our race to center court,” said Adams.
“The feeling didn’t feel real at all, I was just so excited for all the work we’ve put in as a team and individually,” said Jayce Pakootas, Colville tribal member and key player for the Guns.
“There has been no boys team to bring the trophy back to the Northwest and to be the first really is so special.”
But that wouldn’t be the end of the excitement.
Because Young Guns won the boys championship, the whole team would receive tickets to Game 5 of the NBA Finals featuring the Phoenix Suns verse the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday (July 17) evening at Footprint Center in Downtown Phoenix.
“Game 5 of the finals was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Pakootas. “Especially to witness it for free (thanks to our sponsors) we worked our asses off all week to get into that game and once we did we made the most of it.”
Before the game, Pakootas and his teammates went down to courtside and got to watch the players warm up and pre-game shoot around.
“Once tip off started the energy in the arena was insane,” said Pakootas. “Every seat was booked and everyone was jumping and yelling like crazy which made me get up and start cheering and yelling my lungs out. Kind of sad the suns didn’t win game 5 but it was an amazing experience for me and my teammates.”
For Adams it was an amazing moment he was able to share with his son (Alonzo Adams) who also plays on the team but also to be able to celebrate that experience with his team also.
“It’s a blessing,’ said Adams.
The Guns played a total of 11 games, going 10-1, their only loss coming to the Oklahoma Runners early on in the tournament.
A total of nine players made up the Young Guns, with all of them coming from Tribes all across the Pacific Northwest.
Alonzo Adams (Wenatchi/Entiat) and Pakootas (Arrow Lakes) would be the only two Colville tribal members on the squad. Along with two Coeur d'Alene tribal members in Hodges Flemming and Vander Brown. There were three Umatilla tribal members in Tyasin Burns, Teal Soaring Eagle, and Magi Moses , and two players were Chippewa in Aiden Prado, and Jayson Hall.
Burns was named the Most Valuable Player of the NABI Tournament, finishing with 25 points in the championship game, in which he made three 3-point shots.
“We all did our parts,” said Burns. “That’s how we came out with a dub.”
“A few years back we went to NABI when we were 15 and 16 years old and we played old kids and got blown out,” said Pakootas. “So I didn’t know what to expect but when we put 108 points up on the board our first game I knew our team was special. We just got out there and played basketball the way we know, Rez ball.”