NWIC men win AIHEC national basketball championship

Northwest Indian College Eagles beat the Salish Kootenai College Bison 99-83 to win the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) national basketball championship in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Eagles had lost to the Bison in the past two AIHEC championship games. On March 25, Northwest Indian College (NWIC) Eagles won their first ever championship title at the 2012 American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) national basketball championship in Rapid City, South Dakota.

In their final game, the Eagles faced the Salish Kootenai College Bison from Montana. This was a big game for the Eagles, who had lost to the Bison in the past two AIHEC championship games – in 2010 by six points and in 2011 by four.

This year, though, the Eagles took the championship title, beating the Bison 99-83.

“This win meant a lot to the four guys who had made it to the championship games over the past two years and lost to Salish Kootenai both times,” Eagles Head Coach Greg Mahle said. Those players are Josh Nelson, Randy Evans, Matt Eriacho and Douglas Williams. “It felt really good. I was really happy for the guys and NWIC’s athletic program. It takes every guy coming together to win, and every guy believing in one another.”

The final game of the tournament was a mix of emotions for both teams, Coach Mahle said. That’s because it also served to honor Marvin Hudson-Lewis Sr., who drowned in the summer of 2011.
Hudson-Lewis played for the Eagles in 2009 and 2010 and then for the Bison in 2011.

“It was hard playing against him when he was on the other team because he played for us before,” said Coach Mahle, who knew Hudson-Lewis for about 15 years. “But it was emotional playing without him there.”

Including NWIC, 12 teams participated in the tournament. The Eagles played six games at AIHEC and won all of them. First, NWIC beat Aaniiih Nakoda College 69-50, then Chief Dull Knife College 73-54, Tohono O'odham College 63-49, Oglala Lakota College 107-77 and finally Turtle Mountain College 111-89.

The Eagles finished their season 21-15.

Not only did the men’s team win the tournament, several players were honored at an awards ceremony later that evening. Josh Nelson was named MVP of the tournament, and teammates Doug Williams and Mike Schang were named to the all-tournament team. Schang was also given a $500 scholarship for maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

There are 12 players on the men’s team, including Thomas Olsen and Osceola Little, who are both Lummi tribal members.

NWIC Athletic Director, Krista Mahle said she is proud of all the players.

“I’ve watched them work hard all year – watched them all improve and grow,” she said.

Krista Mahle said she thinks the title will help increase the size and stability of the program.

The win has already made NWIC’s basketball program more visible. Coach Mahle has received several calls from coaches and players who have heard about the win from as close as Nisqually and as far away as Oklahoma.

Both Mahles said the Eagles couldn’t have made it this far without the continued support they have received, and thanked NWIC President Cheryl Crazy Bull, Vice President for Instruction and Student Services Carol Rave, the entire NWIC community, Lummi Nation School and Lummi Youth Recreation.

They also thanked their sponsors, which include Nike, the Lummi Nation, the Swinomish tribal community and Northern Lights Casino, and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.