Let’s just say the Crow Creek Lady Chieftains are now a perfect one-for-one.
Saturday night the Lady Chieftains reached their first-ever Lakota Nation Invitational girls’ championship game, and they now have a title under their belts after running past the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes 66-49 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
It was a slight comeback win for Crow Creek, albeit for a short time down, trailing by five points early. But an 11-0 run kick-started a dominating rest of the game as it led by as much as 25 points en-route to the victory.
Longtime Crow Creek coach Vilas Fallis said from day one his girls gave all of their heart, and they played hard. They also played strong defense.
“Defense won all four of our game here this weekend,” he said. “They have been working hard. It’s just the beginning of the season and we have some work to do, but they are something special for me.”
With the win, Crow Creek is now 6-0 on the season. Junior guard Marveen Ross, the tournament’s most valuable player, said they are the LNI champions because they play as a team.
“We stuck together like a family should,” she said. “We played like we knew we could throughout the whole tournament.”
Pine Ridge, which fell to Little Wound in last year’s title game, dropped to 5-1 on the season.
“I don’t know what the heck was going on out there tonight,” Pine Ridge coach Laura Big Crow said. “We tried. We had some shots not go down for us early, and we got in foul trouble. It just wasn’t our night.”
Trailing 8-3 early in the first half, the Lady Chieftains began to put pressure on the Lady Thorpes and created numerous scoring opportunities on the run and from the outside.
Crow Creek shut down Pine Ridge for over four minutes, scoring 11 straight points to gain the momentum. A put-back and 3-pointer by Ross put them up 14-8.
Kaylee Wells then scored six points, and her 3-pointer with 1:48 remaining in the half put the Lady Chieftains up 29-14.
Sarah Hunter top-banked a 3-pointer at the at the buzzer to put Crow Creek up 34-15 at the break.
“It doesn’t take much for them to get right back into it,” Fallis said. “The people we have coming off the bench really helped tonight too. They add a spark in their too and that really helps.”
The Lady Thorpes came out of the locker room with some determination, though, scoring seven quick points.
Crow Creek answered with five straight, but Taysha Big Crow's put in two straight baskets to cut the lead back to 39-26.
After Kateri Weston's bucket cut the Crow Creek lead to 11, the Lady Chieftains responded with six straight, including fastbreak baskets by Ross and Haylee Landeau.
Ross then took over with a three-point play and 3-pointer, and fed Hunter inside. Hunter converted a three-point play for a 20-point advantage, virtually sealing the win.
“We came out and did exactly what we wanted to do,” Laura Big Crow said. “We wanted to get under 10 within five minutes and we got it to 11, but we just couldn’t out on their shooting. They had some big shots from the outside.”
Ross, who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals, said it feels good to be the MVP, but she had a lot of help.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” she said. “It takes five people.”
Wells, who was also named to the all-tournament team, led all scorers with 20 points and 12 rebounds. She hit 5-of-6 3-pointers. Landeau also scored in double figures with 13.
Winning their first LNI means the world to the program and the community, said Fallis, who has coached for nearly 30 years.
“You saw the crowd here rooting for them,” he said. “To me, it’s awesome. I have been coaching for a while and we’ve always wanted to get to this spot. We finally made it. My heart goes out to these girls for how hard they worked for it. They wanted to be here.”
Matilda Anderson led Pine Ridge with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Weston, in foul in the first half, added 11 points, and Taysha Big Crow scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“We had a good tournament. I won’t take anything away from our girls,” Laura Big Crow said. “We had a rough night and it is awful night to pick to have a rough game.”