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LNI tourney ends in a flurry

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RAPID CITY, S.D. - As a popular TV chef would say, the Lakota Invitational Tournament "kicked it up a notch."

The match-up between the Pine Ridge Thorpes and the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Braves, the top-seeded team for the tournament, was the first meeting in 15 years for the two teams. They met for the championship and this year Pine Ridge got its revenge.

It took an overtime period to decide the contest. The game was tied at 56 at the end of regulation, after four quarters of very close scoring. The two teams were so evenly matched that it was just a matter of who was ahead when the final buzzer went off.

Pine Ridge managed to manhandle the Braves in overtime partly due the untimely foul-out of Jordan Mendoza for the Braves, and two very timely bank shots in overtime by Daelen High Wolf.

But the evening of stellar basketball started with the ladies as the McLaughlin Lady Midgets took on the Todd County Falcons. The Falcons had to overcome a 10-point deficit late in the game and with two minutes to play they tied the game.

The game stayed too close for some spectators, and it wasn't until the final two seconds of play with the Midgets ahead by one point when Sunni Busch picked a loose ball and went for the lay-up that ended the game with the Falcons ahead by one.

McLaughlin fans were disappointed and upset and not only at the referees. Some said the team gave the game away.

The two teams started out jittery, with not much speed or movement of the ball early in the first quarter and the Todd County Falcons pressed McLaughlin hard and early. Turnovers were more prevalent that points early on but once the teams settled in and picked up the pace, the game changed composure and it became a game of strategy, skill and speed.

In the second quarter both teams found where someone had hid the basket and began the scoring drives.

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For Busch, it may not yet be the game of her life, but she was the driving force that helped make plays and then she dropped the final bucket. She said later it happened very fast, she just grabbed the ball and went for the basket and "it went in."

It doesn't get simpler than that.

The two lady teams fought through a field of 16 teams to get to the finals. This is first time a large crowd that nearly filled the Rapid City Civic Center had seen girls' basketball merged with boys at the LNI.

The ladies did not play as a warm up for the boys. They in their own right have earned a top position in the first ever combined boys and girls LNI. They proved their worth throughout the tournament with outstanding basketball and quality sportsmanship.

The boys made the crowds stay up way past their bedtimes. In fact a youth dance that started at 9 p.m. was just ending as the final buzzer of the night was sounding. The game ended at 11:48 p.m.

The Red Cloud Crusaders took third place over McLaughlin with a 75-72 win. Douglas beat Todd County for fifth place. St. Thomas More defeated Lower Brule in a hot-handed shooting exhibition by 59-48 for seventh place.

Fort Yates handed Crow Creek a defeat, 57-50 for ninth place; Hill City beat Little Wound 52-34 for eleventh place. Crazy Horse defeated Custer, last year's LNI champion and runner-up in the state Class A tournament, 58-36 for thirteenth place and St. Francis overran Takini 84-71 for the fifteenth slot.

LNI girls finishers

The Rapid City Junior Varsity squad took third place away from Pine Ridge, 64-51. Fifth place was taken by St. Thomas More over Little Wound, 60-54. Red Cloud defeated Custer 45-43 for seventh place. The ninth slot was awarded to Hill City over Cheyenne-Eagle Butte with a 47-33 victory. Crow Creek overtook Douglas 65-51 for an 11th place finish. Takini beat Lower Brule 41-37 for 13th place and the 15th position was won by St. Frances with a big victory over Crazy Horse 81-54.