Players remember Peshlakai sisters
By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
NEWCOMB, N.M., March 29, 2012
"I just remember being mad about drunk drinking," said Begay, 19, whose team, The Chosen Ones from Thoreau, N.M., was among the 30 men's teams competing at the inaugural Peshlakai Angels vs. Drunk Drivers "Don't Drink and Drive" Memorial Basketball Tournament held last weekend at Newcomb High and the middle schools.
"During that time we found out over at (the 2010 state tournament) that two girls passed away," said teammate Carl Adams, who played high school basketball at St. Michael.
Adams and Begay were among the several hundred basketball players who participated in the tournament at Newcomb, where both girls had played varsity basketball and volleyball.
"It's good that they put on this tournament for awareness and what drunk driving could do, and how we all can come together to protest against it through basketball," Adams added.
Another player to join the cause is Jaime Begay, 26, a member of the 2003 state champion Shiprock Lady Chieftains basketball team.
"They were my cousins," Begay said of the Peshlakai sisters. "From when they passed to now, they have so many followers and fans. So, playing here is kind of like a tribute to them."
Begay's women's squad, the Big Green, took second place among the 18 women's teams entered in the tournament.
The Big Green, which consists mostly of girls from Begay's high school basketball team, lost on a last-second shot, 51-49, to the tournament-winning Lady Hoops of Gallup.
"I think a lot of people now are recognizing that drinking and driving is bad," Begay added. "It had to have something like that happen in order for us to be like, 'Wow, OK. Drinking and driving, I don't think we should be doing that.'"
Lady Hoops center Elisa Tsosie, who's known the Peshlakai family from playing with or against Danell Peshlakai, said she entered her team to support the fight to end drunk driving and, of course, for the family.
"I spoke with Danell before to make sure I got in a team," Tsosie said. "We all knew the girls and the cause behind it. We were all ready to play."
Tsosie said she took the time to explain to her daughter, Niasia, the cost of drunk driving on the trip from Gallup.
"On the drive out here I talked to her about the purpose of this tournament and what drunk driving does," Tsosie said, adding that the support the family needs is shown through their love for basketball.
"They just have a lot of support and that is what they need right now," she added.
For Danell Peshlakai, who played collegiate ball at Cochise College, the tournament brought back memories of playing with her late sisters.
"I played in many tournaments before but this one really brought back a lot of memories because the girls I played with had the speed and the knowledge of my two sisters," said Peshlakai, 32, whose team, No Drama, came in third at the Angels tournament.
Peshlakai's team included former Wingate player Elvina Benally-Vallo, former Gallup player Delphina Peters, and sisters Jenine and Justine Coriz and Mystri Jodie, formerly of Santa Fe Indian School
"These guys were my runners so it felt good to throw the ball down court and have them get it," Peshlakai said of her teammates. "It was kind of a joy for me to feel like they (my sisters) are here and I'm playing with them."
Kristen Quigley of Lady Hoops was dubbed the women's MVP and Pernell Begay from Wildhorses was named the men's MVP.
Both Quigley and Begay received a basketball and handmade quilt adorned with the "Angels vs. Drunk Drivers" and "Don't Drink and Drive" slogans. The quilts were handmade by Darnell Peshlakai, Del and DeShauna's oldest sister.
Wildhorses, of Window Rock, defeated Bitterwater from Pine Hill, N.M., 71-69, to win first place in the men's tourney.
The Cavaliers from Shiprock took third place in the men's division followed by The Chosen Ones in the men's competition. Toon Squad of Gallup finished fourth in the women's tournament behind No Drama.
"Compared to all the tournaments I play in, it's a great turnout," Danell Peshlakai said. "I am very happy, and as usual I am happy my late sisters were able to bring everyone together.
"I know we have a lot of athletes out there that, you know, find themselves bored, and we're trying to get them to do something fun instead of partying and drinking and driving," she added.