RAPID CITY, S.D. - It was no surprise to Braves fans but Lakota Nation Invitational watchers were treated firsthand to the determination of Cheyenne-Eagle Butte throughout the 24th anniversary tournament.
The LNI champions overcame a 10-point deficit for two quarters to beat Red Cloud on the way to the semi-finals. And, with a heart-stopping finish in the final tournament game, the Braves' Matt Red Bear finished off the Crow Creek Chieftains with a field goal on the last tick of the clock to win 63 to 61.
Red Bear, with a total of 14 points, took a free throw rebound off the Braves' net with eight seconds left and, without hesitation, worked his way down the floor and with a quick turn drilled the 2-pointer.
The game plan was set during a huddle when coach Jesse Mendoza told his team to take a possible rebound down the floor to the basket. Red Bear followed orders.
"I couldn't believe it," Mendoza said after the game.
Crow Creek took top-seeded Custer out of final action with a semi-final nail-biter that ended 57-56.
The hard-fought finale to a memorable tournament amazed fans who for the most part didn't leave their seats in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center even though the Braves were down by 12 at one point.
The Braves were down 52-43 with six minutes to go in the fourth. With quick hands, a full-court press and good defense, the Braves frustrated the Chieftains just long enough to permit Cheyenne-Eagle Butte to find the winning combination.
Gideon Mendoza, co-MVP for the tourney, dropped in 20 points for the Braves. Avery Thompson, the other MVP, hit 20 points for Crow Creek. Thompson was named playmaker of the tourney.
The Chieftains' Tracy Sazue and Terry St. John hit for 17 points each, while Matt Red Bear, with 14, and Jordan Knife, with 13, helped Crow Creek to second place.
Top-seeded Custer finished third with a win over St. Francis, 50-42. Paige Paulson had a hot hand throughout the game and scored 31 points. Paulson also excelled on rebounding with 18, and Custer dominated the offensive and defensive boards. Custer pulled down 42 rebounds to 17 for St. Francis. Top scorer for St. Francis was Randy Arcoren Jr. with 25.
Outstanding Coach - Jesse Mendoza, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte
Defensive Player- Lyle Lebeau, Little Wound
Mr. Hustle - Eric Barker, St. Thomas More
Playmaker - Avery Thompson, Crow Creek
Most Inspirational - Paige Paulson, Custer
Individual sportsmanship- Austin Hawk, Lower Brule
Team Sportsmanship- Crow Creek
Most points in tourney- Paige Paulson, Custer (104)
Most 3-pointers in tourney- Thomas Collins, Takini
Most Rebounds- Herb Goodlow, Lower Brule
MVP- Gideon Mendoza, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte and Avery Thompson, Crow Creek
All Tourney team
Lonnie Brewer- Pine Ridge
Rayson Scott- St. Francis
Randy Price- Tiospa Zina
Paige Paulsen- Custer
Tanoa Big Crow- Little Wound
Tony Yellow Elk- Crazy Horse
Dan Halter- Hill City
Lonnie Favel- Flandreau
Clay Donnely- St. Thomas More
Herb Goodlow- Lower Brule
Avery Thompson - Crow Creek
D.J. Big Eagle- Crow Creek
Jacob Martin- Douglas
Cody Red Wing- Red Cloud
Randy Arcoren Jr. - St. Francis
Travis Meyer- Custer
Matt Red Bear- Cheyenne-Eagle Butte
Thomas Collins- Takini
Kyle Keller- Todd County
Gideon Mendoza - Cheyenne