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Basketball tourney brings people together, business to area


Trevor McCraigie and Quincy Williams of the team called "Nespelem" defend against Neil Johnson of "Trust the Process" on Saturday during the Nespelem All-Indian Basketball Tournament. Also pictured are: far back left, Raven Boyd; on the right, Paul Myrick; and far back right, Beaudean Adolph. - Jacob Wagner photo-

The Nespelem All-Indian Basketball Tournament was held this past weekend, bringing people together to bond over basketball and bringing people to the area during the tourists' off-season.

Thirty-two teams, spanning different age groups, participated in the tournament, with each paying $350 to participate.

The games took place at the gymnasiums at the Nespelem Community Center, Nespelem Elementary School, Lake Roosevelt High School, and at the former middle school in Grand Coulee.

"I think that with all the hard work that went into it, it was a tremendous success," said Larry Jordan, who organized the event. "Putting on four [brackets for a tournament] in a community takes a lot of effort, and we did it."

The event was put on in honor of Shirley Wak Wak, Jordan's significant other, who died in 2016 and had helped put on the tournament each year by being present at the gate and helping people feel welcome. Her brother, Phil Wak Wak, had organized a similar tournament for over 20 years. Shirley Wak Wak's and Jordan's son, Brent Jordan, currently stationed in Hawaii with the Air Force, flew his family over for this year's event. Their daughter, Shoshannah Palmanteer, clinic manager at Coulee Medical Center, helped with the tournament and played for the team Best Deals in the women's league.

The Coulee Dam Casino and the Colville Tribes were the biggest financial contributors to the event.

Jordan wanted to thank both the Nespelem and Grand Coulee Dam school districts who, by not charging the tournament any fees to rent three out of the four gymnasiums, had "made a significant contribution to the success of the tournament."

Local hotels and restaurants noted a boost to business from the tournament. "We're always happy with the tournament this time of year," said one Coulee House Inn & Suites employee.

"This tournament fills the towns up and brings a lot of business in during a dead weekend in winter, and that's another positive thing," Jordan said.

Teams traveled from as far as Montana, Minnesota, and North Dakota to participate in the tournament.

Lachelle Bearcub defends against LeiOnah Scott, of the Warm Springs tribe in Oregon. Also pictured are Rikki Wipple, left; Mellisa Meza, right; and Janessa Morin, far back right.

"It's a good thing for the community because it brings so many people back together," said Coby Dick, who played for the young men's team "Northwest Connection." "It brings together the best native ballers around, and you just want to see who's the best. You've got Colvilles from every part of this rez, and other Indians coming from everywhere, and everybody loves to play and loves the game."

"It's a blast," said Phillip Williams who played for the young men's team Trust the Process. "It gets us all out here playing ball. People come from different tribes and it's nice to meet them."

The Cayuse Legends won the men's 50-and-over tournament, the Descendants won the men's 35-and-over tournament, Sacred Circle won the young men's tournament, and the Legendz won the women's tournament.

The winners took home leather-sleeve jackets with tribal logos embroidered on the back.

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