Northern AZ Elite close out NABI tournament on a winning note
The team that was inches away from a Gold Division berth had to settle for the next best thing.
The Northern AZ Elite boys’ basketball team finished their pool with a winning record of 2-1 but they were placed in the Silver bracket at the Native American Basketball Invitational during the weeklong tournament last week.
“We were in a three-way tie for first in pool play but we lost by point differential,” Northern AZ Elite coach Forrest Lowley said. “We wanted to win the (Gold Division) and unfortunately we didn’t get into that bracket.”
Instead, the Fort Defiance-based team nabbed the Silver Division title with a 65-44 win over the 1Fire team at Maricopa High School on July 1.
“The boys were very happy to win Silver even though we felt that we belonged in the Gold bracket,” Lowley said. “When the tournament got started the boys were ready to play.”
Lowley said the first half was real competitive and he felt that his team got off to a slow start.
“They weren’t playing like I wanted them to,” he said.
In fact the game was tied at 23-all before Northern AZ Elite got 11 points each from Abraham Dickson and Rory Billie in the second half.
Billie led his team with 19 points while Dickson added 16 and Gallup High standout Colton Lowley finished with eight.
“We finally got it together and everyone clicked,” the Northern AZ Elite coach said.
Lowley said the difference came down to bigs as they slowed the game down.
“I went back to a half-court and we stopped penetration and their fast breaks,” he said of the Florida-based team. “I made sure when we scored we were back on defense.”
In particular, Lowley made sure they kept a watchful eye on senior guard Ethan Cypress, A1 Fire’s best player.
For the entire game, Lowley utilized the defensive prowess of Billie and Dickson to tire out Cypress.
“When Rory got tired I had Abraham stay with him,” Lowley said. “We put a body on him and we got physical and we got him tired.”