LAWRENCE, KANSAS – All season the Haskell Indian Nations University women’s basketball team have been making big plays on and off the court. Boasting a record of 23-6, the whole team has been on the same page throughout the season. Coming off a regular season loss to the number four ranked College of the Ozarks, the team bounced back when starting the A.I.I. Conference Tournament.
In the first round of tournament, the team was set to play Northern New Mexico College and they would cruise to a win of 83-64. After passing through the first round, they would face Indiana University Northwest, one of the tougher games in the tournament winning 81-83.
The stage would be set for the Association of Independent Institutions Division 2 Women’s Basketball Championship where Haskell would play familiar foe College of the Ozarks. College of the Ozarks handed Haskell a couple of losses earlier in the season–one on January 16th with the Indians taking an 81-88 loss to the lady Bobcats, and another loss right before the start of the A.I.I. Division 2 Women’s Basketball Championship on February 16th with a final score of 81-83.
But not this time as the lady Indians came into the arena with determination and a “never give up” attitude. Haskell was putting up astounding numbers against the Ozarks team who ranked 3rd in the nation holding a 51 percent field goal stat and 46 percent from the three-point line. Tyler Sumpter and Cerissa Honena-Reyes kept things rolling throughout the game both combing for 38 points in the championship game. Their defense was remarkable holding College of the Ozarks to a 38% percentage for the game.
Four Haskell teammates made the All-Tournament team with Tyler Sumpter leading the way earning tournament MVP. Keli Warrior, Cerissa Honena-Reyes, and Arnetia Begay would also make the All-Tournament team. Winning the tournament got them an automatic bid into the National Tournament.
This week the Haskell Indian Nations student body, staff, and faculty sent the team off to the National Tournament in style with a pep rally letting the team know they have our full support and to keep fighting. Dr. Chenault gave words of inspiration to the women as they got ready to travel to the tournament. Coach Flanagan also reflected on the journey, not just from this year but from the start of his career with Haskell Indian Nations University.
After the pep rally, the team was escorted out of the city by the Lawrence Fire Dept. displaying a purple and yellow flag on fire truck in honor of the team.
Players, Arnetia Begay and Tyler Sumpter shared their thoughts about the team’s accomplishments with The Indian Leader.
How does it feel to reach the National tournament in your final season?
Begay: It feels amazing; one of my biggest accomplishments. I’ve been thinking about this since my freshmen year of college.
What is it going take from you as a team leader to keep everyone on the same page to achieve the goal of winning the whole thing?
Begay: We just have to play together, take it one game at a time, and understand that we need everybody on the team mentally, emotionally and physically.
What does it mean to honored as newcomer of the year and tournament MVP?
Sumpter: I was both surprised and happy to be honored with the newcomer and tournament MVP honors. It was exciting to see that my hard work has paid off. It all came together and means anything is possible if you dream.
How does it feel being a huge contributor throughout the season as a new member and how did you adapt to the this role?
Sumpter: I just wanted to fit in at a new school. I have always loved basketball and I play hard because I want to win. I am always up for a challenge and enjoy competing. I look forward to a couple of more years at Haskell!
The Indians will play the number 10-ranked Dakota Wesleyan University in the first round of the 2016 NAIA Division II National Championship at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. An early scheduled games seems to be a good time for the team who have played a winning 8:30 a.m. game already this season.
The Fighting Indians have their eyes on the prize and are more determined than ever to achieve it. GOOD LUCK, Ladies! GO PURP!!!
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Haskell Indian Nations University’s The Leader. Used with permission. All rights reserved.