The Lakota Tech Tatanka from Wolf Creek, South Dakota showed up on January 30, which was a dark and deary evening to take on the Tigers in a doubleheader in the Dupree High School Gymnasium. Lakota Tech is a brand-new state school that is on the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation and about four miles east of Pine Ridge. More importantly, the Tatanka, a Class A school, came in as just as dangerously as the icy cold weather outside on this night.
Up first were the Lady Tigers against the Lady Tatanka. The girls for Lakota Tech have been having a stellar season because they showed up with an undefeated record (7-0) and, except for their very first game against Kimball/White Lake (48 to 40), they have not been challenged. As a matter of fact, they have been averaging 65 points a game and their opponents have only been managing to get 32 points a game on the average.
The Lady Tigers had a 6-7 record and the reason for more games is because in the region that Lakota Tech is in, Class A Region 7, five of the eight teams that make up the group are not playing ball this year due to COVID – Little Wound, Pine Ridge, Red Cloud, St. Francis, and Todd County. Nevertheless, with an unblemished record, the Lady Tigers knew they had their hands full.
Another advantage that the Tatanka had was their height. Right from the tip-off to start the game their 6-foot 1-inch-tall center controlled the ball and their guard immediately went squeaking down the court to score an uncontested layup. However, Daci Lends His Horse and Jay’Ellen Red Fox wanted to show they too had game and they scored buckets as well to keep the scored tied at 4. But then the Tatanka went on a 6-point run until Taylee Jewett answered with a basket herself. When it looked like the Tigers were going to hold their own, the Tatanka Number 12, Tobi Carlow splashed in a 3-pointer. However, Jay’Ellen Red Fox wasn’t done. She got another hard-fought basket. The Tigers fouled Number 25, Shaylia Bravo, for the third time in this opening period; she went to the free-throw line to get her fifth point right before the first quarter expired to make the score 8 to 14 in favor of the team from the south.
Hope was still with the Lady Tigers to start the second quarter because both Taylee Jewett and Jay’Ellen Red Fox scored a point apiece from the free-throw line. Sadly, in both incidents, they were only allowed one opportunity due to lane violations. These mistakes hurt them, and against the Lady Tatanka, Dupree could not afford to make too many. In turn the Lady Tatanka not only made four baskets from the floor and one from the free-throw line, three of their players also found their range from behind the 3-point arch to end the quarter with 18 points as compared to the Lady Tigers 14. What kept the Tigers in the game was their free-throw shooting. The Tatanka were assessed 12 fouls in this first half, with 7 of them coming in this second period. Needless to say, Daci Lends His Horse, Taylee Jewett, Lynda Charger, Jay’Ellen Red Fox, and Chloe Dupree all cashed in, but the scoreboard showed 20 to 32 when the first half ended.
The last advantage that the Tatanka had was a deep bench – a very deep bench. The Tatanka had played a doubleheader the day before and finally in the third period they seemed to get their second wind and rolled over the Tigers 26 to 17. Seven of their players scored and Number 15, Chancey Witt, sparked them big time by popping the net twice behind the 3-point stripe. It was not that the Lady Tigers threw in the towel because Taylee Jewett seemed to be all over the floor on both offense and defense as well as Jay’Ellen Red Fox doing her best inside against a formidable foe. Also, Daci Lends His Horse was contributing from the floor and free-throw line. But when the horn blew the score was 58 to 37.
Again, the Tatanka bench was deep and in the fourth period they had nine players contribute to their scoring whereas the Tigers only had three. Chloe Dupree splashed in a 3-pointer and Lynda Charger did the same, but the lead was just too much. When the final horn sounded it was 48 to 81 in favor of Lakota Tech.
In the nightcap game between the boys, it was a track race. Unfortunately, not like a bunch of thoroughbreds running at Pimlico, but more like the Wild Horse Ride at Cheyenne Frontier Days. With both teams super quick and full of energy and grit, they ran from start to finish and there wasn’t a piece of the court that they didn’t tear up.
Anyone knows when you play a team from Pine Ridge, they will not only be running from the tip-off to final buzzer, but they will be heaving up bombs as soon as they get on the court. So, nothing was unexpected when the Tatanka opened up their scoring with a 3-pointer that would make Stephen Curry smile. But also, anyone knows if you live by the long ball, you can die by the long ball.
Whereas the Tatanka were running and firing up one long ball after the other that kept missing, the Tigers were much more disciplined and had a balanced attack. Josh Morrison and Cinch Moran started off the scoring and they kept the Tigers slightly ahead of the Tatanka in the opening quarter until the pilot light sparked a scoring surge for them. Cinch Moran netted two baskets from the floor and one big 3-pointer, and Josh Morrison total four shots for a total of 8 points. Also breaking into the box score was Spencer Moran with one basket and one point from the free-throw line to give the Tigers the lead at the end of the first quarter 18 to 9.
Besides being quick, Lakota Tech was also big. Their starting center was 6-foot 8-inches-tall and they had five other players 6-foot or better compared to the Tigers tallest player only being 6-foot 3-inches. As in the first quarter the Tigers not only ran with Tatanka, they also out rebounded them and out shot them as well. Lakota Tech kept firing off one unsuccessful long ball after the other until finally their mid-range shooting kicked in and four of their players made buckets from the floor as well as getting 6 points from the free-throw stripe. In this frame however, Elijah Brewer let everyone know he was in gym because he made two rainmakers from behind the 3-point arch and Cinch Hebb got one as well. Besides their long ball dropping, Spencer Moran and Cinch Hebb added 2-points and even freshman Tyler Stambach added a bucket to make the score 39 to 29 at the break.
Still hoping to play like the NBA Golden State Warriors, the Tatanka finally rocketed in a 3-pointer by Wakinya Cuny who also got six more points – 2 buckets and 2 free throws. Also coming to life for Lakota Tech was Adriano Rama who added three baskets as well and so did Trey Yellow Boy. But after making 9 points in the second quarter, they stop feeding the ball into their big man, Tristen LeBeau, and he only got 2 points off 2 free-throws. Whereas the Tatanka quit playing inside out, the Tigers cranked up the heat. Elijah Brewer was doing damage when left alone and he dropped in two more 3-pointers and one basket. Not to be out done, Cinch Hebb kept up his onslaught too by getting two 3-pointers as well and 2 baskets too. All this offense added up to 24 points for the home team in the third period as compared to the Tatanka who got 19 to make the score 63 to 47.
Even though it looked like the Tigers wrapped up the game going into the last quarter of play, the fourth quarter was exciting. The Tatanka finally went back to their big man in the middle, and Tristen LeBeau made it count by scoring 17 points himself in this final period. Taking over he put a lot of pressure on the Tigers and due to demanding so much attention, he was able to foul out Josh Morrison. However, the shift in the Tatanka play came too late because Elijah Brewer and Cinch Hebb still had something to say. Elijah made a mid-range shot, and to end as he started shooting, he cranked in one from the behind the arch as well. But it was Cinch Hebb’s burst of scoring that made anything by Lakota Tech moot. When the game was basically decided at the 1:38 mark, Coach Kelly McClintic cleared his bench but when Coach Lyle LeBeau kept his starting five on the court to try to make a comeback and not conceding the loss, Coach McClintic put his starters back in a the 1:17 mark to make sure the game was over. It ended with the score being 82 to 73. Unfortunately, the Tatanka had to load up and go home slowly due to the icy road conditions.
No doubt the outstanding players for the Tigers were Taylee Jewett for her consistency and defense, and for the boys, Cinch Hebb. This young man tore the nets off the rims and was a blur from start to finish.
In the undercard, the Lakota Tech JV Girls beat the Lady Tigers by 32 to 37 and the Tiger boys lost too – 39 to 53.