United Tribes NewsTribal College title game was a classic
Lakotas versus Crows – a March matchup for the books
By Phil Baird (Sicangu Lakota)
29 March 2011
March Madness. I've played, coached and announced a few hoops contests in my time. But I never saw a game like the 1987 National Tribal College Women's Championship Final. It took place mid-March at United Tribes in the James Henry Community Gymnasium, aka the "Thunder Dome."
It was a classic match-up. Oglala Lakota College of South Dakota faced Montana's Little Big Horn College for the national title. The Lakotas versus the Crows! A contest stir to the spirit of the "Old Ones."
Spectators of the annual tribal college tourneys have come to expect close games, especially between intertribal and interstate rivals. This one played out true to form.
Led by Thelma Charette and Roberta Stewart, LBHC had a slim, 39-38 lead at half time over the Lady Brave Hearts.
No one could have guessed how this match-up would create a new take on March Madness.
In the second half, foul trouble became a factor. One by one, OLC players were ushered off the floor: Laretha Brown Bull, Muffie Mousseaux, Sis Iron Cloud and Mary Pourier. Of the six OLC players, only Debbie Iron Cloud and Lisa Phelps were left to finish the battle.
Outnumbered two-to-five, there wasn't much OLC could do for offense. Phelps would lob the ball down court, sort of a "Hail Mary" pass. On the receiving end, Iron Cloud would get fouled and go to the charity stripe. Then both players would fall back on defense.
Debbie could hardly stand up as they repeated the play over and over. From sheer exhaustion, she finally crumbled at the free throw line.
Her brother, Paul John Iron Cloud, the OLC coach, used timeouts to help his sister catch her breath. She kept murmuring to her brother that she couldn't go on. But Paul reassured her and encouraged her to hang in there. Amazingly, she kept sinking the free throws.
Then, late in the game, foul trouble caught up with Little Big Horn. Out came LBHC's Diane Cliff, Sherry Plenty Hawk and Charette. By the one minute mark it was three against two.
As public address system announcer, I was going hoarse at the microphone. Sitting next to me was United Tribes Athletic Director and Coach Dave Archambault, Sr. We joined the fans in a wild chant, counting down the final seconds of our chapter of March Madness.
At the buzzer, OLC's two Lady Brave Hearts had defeated LBHC, 90-88, for the national title.
Debbie Iron Cloud scored 48 points and was named MVP. The Bismarck Tribune simply reportedly she had a "marvelous game."
The event later captured the attention of broadcaster Paul Harvey, who repeated the story on his national radio program.
What the courageous players from both teams demonstrated was fortitude. Those of us who were fortunate enough to witness it were left us with a lesson in heart, and an unforgettable memory about tribal college basketball.
I'm sure the Old Ones settled down and glowed in the aftermath.
United Tribes News
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