By Sam Stevens (MCC Advisor)
Photos by Chrissy K.
Mesa, AZ - On Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, under cold and gray afternoon skies which brought with them a second day of chilling rain showers across much of the Valley, the atmosphere inside the Theo Heap Gymnasium at Mesa Community College was the complete opposite. In two conference games that showcased the strength of the Mesa Thunderbirds men's and women's basketball teams, who successfully dismantled crosstown rivals the Glendale Gauchos, MCC Athletics and the American Indian Center also celebrated American Indian Recognition Day with dynamic and electrifying Native American powwow dancers while also honoring their American Indian student-athletes. In addition to a large and enthusiastic crowd, MCC President Dr. Shouan Pan and Dean of Student Affairs, Meredith Warner came out to support the events of the day.
The 5-1 Lady T-Birds started off a little slow against a scrappy Glendale team that seemed to not miss a basket and jumped out to an early lead, but Mesa fought back aggressively, holding a 32-27 advantage at the half. It was at halftime that things seemed to shift in their favor. Perhaps it was the motivational locker room talk by 8th year head coach Kori Stephenson about tightening up their defense and competing on the rebounding end of the floor. Or maybe it was the energetic and colorful halftime performance of native powwow dancers whose animation and artistic footwork moved in unison to the slamming drumbeats that reverberated throughout the entire building. Whatever the case, Mesa's blood was flowing and they started off the second half red hot, going on a 15-4 run which ballooned their score to 47-31. At that point they never looked back and successfully trounced the Gauchos 79-58. Sophomore post Madi Austin led all scorers with a season-high 25 points and the Lady T-Birds dominated the glass, pulling down 39 rebounds. They also unselfishly shared the ball, one of their biggest strengths, finishing with 19 assists for the night. It was a strong finish to a solid performance whose pace seemed to find its rhythm with the drumming and dancing of the halftime performance.
The men's game was just as highly charged and high scoring. After a few minutes of holding each other to a 3-3 score, the Mesa men's offensive charge set them on a 11-1 run and the game would never be out of their grasp. They went into the locker room at the break in charge of a 41-24 lead. At halftime, Bob Boxley, 'the voice of the valley' and longtime game announcer, read the names of Mesa's American Indian student-athletes. Those who were present were brought to center court and recognized over the PA system. While Boxley read their names to the crowd they smiled graciously and waved to those in attendance. They are:
Name High School Sport
Tyler Endischee Coconino High School Cross Country/Track
Michaela Begaye Skyline High School Cross Country/Track
Deriann Yazzie Chinle High School Cross Country/Track
Andrea Hernandez Red Mountain High School Softball
Shiniya Henry Tuba City High School Softball
Twynoya Henry Tuba City School Softball
Tiona Huskie Tuba City High School Softball
Raquel ‘Darla’ Woody Kirtland Central High School Women’s Basketball
After the student athletes were recognized, the dancers returned to the floor and shared more of their dancing abilities with the capacity crowd. Two separate songs and two styles of dancing were performed, much to the delight of those in attendance. The first group of four, comprised of three jingle dress and a Northern traditional dancer, led off in a fluid and rhythmic style that got the crowd re-energized with their gracefulness. When they were done, two more colorful and exuberant fancy dancers came on, electrifying the audience with a highly charged performance that excited the crowd more and even brought a few to their feet.
Once again, the spirit of the dancing and power of the songs and drumbeats echoed throughout Heap Gymnasium. This brought out the men’s basketball team who continued their domination of the Glendale squad, shooting and rebounding the ball with a purpose, which had them up 38 points at the two minute mark, 85-47. The T-Birds finished up victorious 87-51. Post player Camyn Boone led the way, scoring 20 points and pulling down 14 rebounds and the rest of the team followed his lead. Just as the women did, the Mesa men dominated the boards, finishing with 58 to Glendale’s 22.
In addition to athletes and native dancers, there was also an Indian market next to the concession booth outside the gym, sponsored by the Intertribal Student Organization, with native vendors selling t-shirts, jewelry, and various other arts and crafts. The Service Learning department sponsored a food drive in collaboration with MCC Athletics and several large boxes and barrels were filled which will be donated to the United Food Bank. To top off all the excitement, a very willing and motivated crew of student volunteers from the American Indian Center’s student population tossed out t-shirts, mini-basketballs, and frisbees to the lively crowd and created an extra air of excitement in the T-Bird nest. It was a great ending to a very successful day that showcased tremendous cross-college collaboration with the American Indian Center, Mesa Athletics, and the Service Learning department working together for a successful American Indian Recognition Day.
As Indigenous Nations Month comes to its conclusion, the planning committee (Loretta Damon, Tommy Belone, Altheresia Alicia, Kenny Begay, and Sam Stevens) wishes to acknowledge all who helped make American Indian Recognition Day an enormous success. To all the fans who came, we are grateful that you were able to brave the cold and rain to come out and support your MCC students. To all the students who willingly volunteered their time to attend and help with the setup and distributed the items to the crowd, thank you! To the American Indian Center staff who created the event flyers, made arrangements for the dancers, and helped with all of the paperwork, we are very, very grateful because we know it is always a time-consuming process. Yvonne Honeyestewa, in addition to all you do, you did a tremendous job bringing in and coordinating the dancers on the day of the event. Without your expertise and willingness to help, the timing and professionalism of the dance events would have not have been as seamless as they were. We also wish to express our gratitude to John Mulhern and the Mesa athletic department for giving us the venue for our dancers and the opportunity to showcase our center’s willingness to work with other campus departments. We want to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of our basketball programs who have set a national standard of hard work and competitiveness and we will continue encouraging our students to come on out and keep supporting your efforts (schedules can be found here).
The Lady T-Birds are off until after Thanksgiving and Mesa’s men play at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 at South Mountain. The women’s next game will be at Central AZ College on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 at 5:30. Finally, we want to thank all of our student-athletes for their willingness to come out and be recognized during our Celebration of American Indian Athletes events. Historically, there has never been collaboration like this between the AIC and the athletic department, so your willingness to participate made this first-time event possible. We wish you continued success and give you our support in your future endeavors. Have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving and go T-Birds!
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