Northwest Indian College Men’s Basketball Team Clinches AIHEC National Championship
Lummi Nation (Bellingham, Wash.) — Northwest Indian College Men’s Basketball Team are the undefeated champions of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) National Basketball Championship. The tournament — hosted by Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College — brought together 10 men’s and 12 women’s Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) teams competing for the title March 30 through April 1, 2023.
“I couldn’t be more proud of both our Men’s and Women’s program. They represented NWIC the best they could at AIHEC,” said Northwest Indian College (NWIC) Athletic Director and AIHEC Commissioner James Mathias.
The NWIC Men’s Team beat Stonechild College 105-90 in the final game at the Three Affiliated Tribes’ Four Bears Casino and Event Center in New Town, North Dakota. NWIC’s Women’s Team was also undefeated in pool play, but lost in a tight game to Chief Dull Knife College.
“These past months we put in a lot of work. To see that and the bond we built throughout this season all come together at AIHEC was great. We did what we said we were going to do from the beginning and worked up to accomplish this win as a team,” said Tournament MVP Malachi Rogers.
The NWIC Eagles went 3-0 in pool play beating Sisseton Wahpeton College 59-45, Institute of American Indian Arts 55-16 and Turtle Mountain Community College 69-54. The team earned the number one seed in the tournament, resulting in a first-round bye in the semifinals, where the team defeated Salish Kootenai College 84-67. They met Stonechild College in the championship game.
“I am so proud of this team. We traveled to the tournament with 10 players, but there were 25 guys throughout the year who put in work and helped us achieve this goal. They all worked extremely hard for seven months, but for some of them it’s been multiple years with this program. We have players who have been here for three to four years and hadn’t gotten the opportunity to play in an AIHEC tournament, so for us to walk away with a championship was extra special,” Men’s Coach Adam Lane said. “It was such a great experience for them, they really bought in and wanted it for each other. They’re such an unselfish, supportive, hard-working group and they couldn’t be more deserving of a championship.”
With less than two minutes on the clock and NWIC having over 100 points to Stonechild’s 86, the Eagles gave up two baskets. The final basket was scored by NWIC’s 7-footer Khalil Chaffin as the crowd cheered.
“Coach Adam Lane showed composure throughout the tournament. He had tough game decisions to make, but his over 10-year coaching experience shined during the championship game,” Mathias said.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this program and having the opportunity to build something great here at NWIC. I’m so proud of this women’s team — the majority were all newcomers to the program. We went to AIHEC short-handed but that didn’t stop us from just going out there, playing ball and working hard every minute out on the court,” Women’s Coach Rochone Quasula said.
The Lady Eagles were also undefeated in their four pool play games beating Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College 61-56, College of the Muscogee Nation 60-25, Turtle Mountain Community College 50-30 and Institute of American Indian Arts 65-15.
The Lady Eagles earned a first-round bye in the semifinals, defeating Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College 70-56, and met Chief Dull Knife College in the championship game.
“We knew there was going to be tough competition, but we came together and fought hard to get all the way to the championship. We really battled adversity in the final game and fell behind big in the first half, but they didn’t give up and battled all the way back to the lead. We ended up falling short by a few points but these young ladies played with so much heart and passion. We are definitely motivated and hungry going into next season,” Quasula said.
The final score for the women’s championship game was 67-74.
“First-year Coach Rochone Quasula showed commitment throughout the season. Her passion and dedication to the team was evident at the national tournament as the Lady Eagles took second place,” Mathias said.
“I loved our stay here and playing all the different teams. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with all these other Natives and it’s just a really great thing to come witness in person,” Mills said.
NWIC also won both the women’s 3-pointer contest and men’s dunk contest with players Morgan Thomas and Trazil Lane.
The 2023 championship marks the first AIHEC National Tournament since the pandemic. NWIC last won the championship in 2013 and this win marks their third in program history.
Northwest Indian College’s All-Tourney Award winners were Nayha Mills and Trazil Lane.
The next AIHEC tournament is scheduled for spring 2024 in Minnesota.