Trevor Shavehead and Shawn Craig added a new chapter to Native American basketball history on Feb. 24 in Fargo, North Dakota. The former Wapato (Washington) High School teammates, who sought an opportunity to play college ball together at United Tribes Technical College, were the only two players left on their team in a double-overtime thriller that ended 156-154.
It was a game so wild it garnered national attention from ESPN, which featured highlights on SportsCenter. With a minute left in the game, United Tribes Technical College was down two points to Dakota College-Bottineau and had the ball. The duo wove through their way up-court, through the five-man defense and made it to the other side of the court before the ball was stripped away. What would have been a legendary comeback became just one of the craziest finishes in college basketball history.
“Shawn and I just didn’t want to give up,” Shavehead told ICTMN. They were two of just five players available for the first-round game in the Region XIII postseason tournament, where the winner would advance to the championship game. “Two of our players had to deal with family issues.”
ESPN caught wind of the game and played it during SportsCenter that night. “It’s pretty awesome,” Shavehead said. “I really did not expect to see myself on [there], honestly.”
Screen capture of the ESPN website highlighting the UTTC game
It’s no easy task to follow a basketball dream from the Yakama Reservation to Bismarck, North Dakota, Shavehead says. He was communicating via wifi network because he couldn’t afford to keep his phone service active.
Perhaps the effort shown in the game was in line with that dream. One player fouled out in regulation.
“It was shocking at first,” Shavehead said of entering overtime with four players.
So the team, amazingly, entered and extended the game with a roster that was dwindled down to three. Finally, in the final minute, just two remained. Had another fouled out, there would have been no one to make an inbounds pass to. Their coach, Pete Conway, helped keep their composure in the situation.
“He was just letting us know what defense we should be in and what to do on offense,” Shavehead said. “So we did our best to do so.”
The numbers make it more fascinating, though. United Tribes had to score 15 points in the first overtime to extend play. Another 14 would have been required for a third-overtime—they scored 12. They did this in a gym full of raucous fans, who, by some reports, turned on their own team to root for the underdogs.
“The fans were wild,” Shavehead said. “After the game, the fans came down to the court and shook our hands.”
Tribes started the game with 5 players, finished regulation with 4, played with 3 in the second overtime, and the last minute with 2 players on the floor.
As one could imagine, it required a team effort to stay in the ballgame. Here were the point totals for each player: Shavehead (33), Craig (22), Josh Smith (38), Keif Williams (13) and Augustine Mathias (48).
Perhaps the biggest stat of the night was the shot totals for each team. United Tribes scored their point total by shooting 53 for 97 from the field, while Dakota College-Bottineau was 59 for 142. United Tribes is known for its fast-paced brand of basketball. At one point last season, it was leading the nation in scoring at 117 points per game.
Add this to an already booming tribal college basketball season—Zachary Camel’s transfer to Montana, conference championships for United Tribes’ and Haskell’s women’s basketball teams—and it’s safe to say good things are happening. They’re raising the profile of American Indian basketball one step at a time.
Got a compelling sports story?
Tell the Native Sports Columnist all about it on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum