NM Elite uses speed to win NABI title
After leading for much of the contest, the NM Elite girls’ basketball team had to overcome a one-point deficit with 47 seconds left during Saturday’s championship game of the gold bracket at the 2019 Native American Basketball Invitational.
The Albuquerque-based team that featured five Diné players stayed the course and posted a hard-fought 70-66 win over Unity, a team from the state of Washington, at Talking Sticks Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix.
“When they took the lead the biggest thing is we didn’t panic,” said NM Elite coach Barry Bates, whose team is an all-freshmen squad. “That was the only the only thing going through my mind because there was a lot of time left.”
Albuquerque Volcano Vista guard Jaelyn Bates hit the go-ahead shot with 31 seconds left, nailing a 3-pointer as the NM Elite closed out the game on a 5-0 run.
“When I took that shot I was hoping that it would go in,” she said.
And if it didn’t, she was willing to make it up on the defensive end.
“Luckily for us she made it,” her dad, coach Bates, said. “What can you say about it? She made the shot and that was it.”
Jaelyn Bates finished with a team-best 18 points with Farmington High’s Kiiyani Anitielu chipping in 16 while Volcano Vista’s Natalia Chavez added 14.
The NM Elite also got production from Piedra Vista’s Lanae Billy and Gallup’s Hailey Long as they chipped in nine and eight points, respectively.
“Winning this tournament together was amazing,” the younger Bates said. “We had an amazing time here but this was the most nerve-wracking game we had the whole week.
“It was really intense and it was fast-paced,” she added. “Everyone was scoring back-to-back baskets.”
Long said it took a team effort as the all-freshmen team beat an experienced Unity squad that boasted five players over 5-feet, 9-inches.
“We had to work together,” the Gallup player said. “It wasn’t easy because they were a lot taller than us.”