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Teenage Girl Wins Essay Contest, Heads to NBA All-Star Game

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Thea Little Light was planning to spend this coming Sunday in front of her television watching the NBA all-star game in Los Angeles.

But she's been forced to change those plans.

That's because the 17-year-old, from Montana's Crow Indian Reservation, won a national essay contest that earned her a trip to the NBA's showcase match.

Besides attending Sunday's all-star game, Little Light will also have a seat in LA's Staples Center to witness Saturday's skills challenges, including the popular dunk contest.

She will also receive a basketball signed by all of the all-star game participants. Plus, she gets to attend a gala dinner with a pair of NBA players, Roger Mason and Amare Stoudemire, who both play for the New York Knicks.

Little Light, a junior at Lodge Grass High School, said she was speechless when her father informed her that she had captured the top prize and would be flying to LA.

"I just stood there," she said. "I was stunned. I was excited but I was kind of shocked."

The contest was run by RezHeadz Entertainment, which also organizes various events across the country for Native youth.

The essay was open to all Native high school basketball players across the country. To enter the contest they simply had to send an essay - just one page long - detailing their accomplishments both on and off the court.

In her essay, Little Light, who has been playing basketball since she was in Grade 4, included details of her how her youngster sister Tashon, who was five, had died of cancer in 2006.

"I couldn't get my life together after that," Little Light said. "I was depressed and I didn't want to do anything. But basketball got me through that. I was depressed for a year and a half but I put my focus on basketball."

Littlelight added her sister had not played basketball herself prior to her death.

"She used to come to my games and was my little cheerleader," said Littlelight, who is also on her school's volleyball and cross-country running teams.

Little Light said she is a huge NBA fan.

"Every time I turn on the TV, I put it to NBA TV," she said. "There's nothing else I watch. That's what I do."

Little Light doesn't necessarily have just one favorite team, however.

"There's a lot of them I do like," she said. "(If I had to pick one) it's probably the (Miami) Heat."

As for favorite players, she listed two of them, Miami's Dwayne Wade and the New Orleans Hornet's Chris Paul.

Little Light, a 5-foot-6 guard, is also hoping to make a name for herself in the sport. She's averaging about 12 points per game for her school team. The Lodge Grass High School squad is off to a stellar start this season. The club won 15 out of its first 18 contests.

Little Light is hoping her game continues to progress the next couple of years. Ideally, she'd love to earn an athletic scholarship from Gonzaga University, located in Spokane, Wash.