An emphatic slam dunk from Winnebago's David Wingett subdues Walthill's players and cheerleaders alike. Photo by James Giago Davies
Defending LNI champs look in top form
Winnebago trounces local rival
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent
WINNEBAGO, Neb. –– Walthill is an excellent basketball team. One of two teams hailing from the Omaha Reservation, the Blujays came within a dozen points of winning a state championship a year ago, but when they traveled seven miles south to Winnebago on December 2, a 21-4 first quarter put up by defending Lakota Nation Invitational champs, dug a hole Walthill could never fight their way back out of, and they fell to the Indians, 89-66.
This comes as no surprise to locals, because Winnebago did the same thing to Walthill at this time last year. Both teams came in fresh off big season opening wins, Walthill over Santee, 91-58, and Winnebago crushed their nearest neighbor, Homer, 101-18.
The Winnebago warm-up T’s gave clear indication of where team priorities are at. On the front was emblazoned “Unfinished Business,” referring to their one-loss season last year, when they finished third in state. On the back was “#waterislife,” in support of the water protectors up at Standing Rock.
Having lost only one starter to graduation (top notch floor general, Aspen LaPointe) the Indians appear as strong, if not stronger, than last year, but the Blujays lost three senior starters, and a lot of height, and they did not appear overly hyped when they took the court.
Senior D’Von LaPointe has matured into a cat-quick offensive force for Winnebago, guaranteed to give other teams fits if they focus too much on standout center, 6-7 David Wingett.
Cutline 2: Both teams crash the boards (L to R) Manape Cleveland (22), Ben Lovejoy (35), Tyler Lovejoy (15), D'Von LaPointe (no number), Drake Gorrin (3), and Truleono Sheridan (10). Photo by James Giago Davies
LaPointe led all scorers last Friday with 31 points, and Wingett added 17. Time and again the lanky Wingett would bring the ball up court, displaying the ball handling skills of a guard, and the relentless flexibility of the Winnebago offense is something the Blujays would struggle with all night long.
“They call it rez ball,” fifth year Winnebago Head Coach Jeff Berridge said. “It’s up and down, up and down, and, yeah, we can run with anybody, but we can also stop ‘em”
Winnebago knows how to play defense.
Berridge has more than one goal for a lot of his strategies, but he does stress the overall goal is to win. When he first started he was only 23-years-old, a former player and 2006 Winnebago graduate, and for two years he was co-head coach. In the past, Berridge said coaches tended to try and play all 15 players: “You can’t do that if you want to win.”
Berridge plays mainly his starters, and explains: “I have five freshmen on the bench. They are there to learn.”
One thing he does with Wingett is focus on his overall skills. He wants Wingett to succeed as a ballplayer after high school, perhaps at a Division I program.
“I’m trying to get him ready for the next level,” Berridge said. “He’s not going to play big (up there); he’s going to be a guard.”
Wingett certainly played big on Friday night, and the Indians started fast. Two quick 3-point buckets by 6-2 junior Manape Cleveland put Winnebago up 6-1. Walthill then got right up in Winnebago’s face, applying triple team pressure as the Indians brought the ball up court. Smooth 6-1 senior guard Drake Gorrin knifed his way quickly up court, though, pulling up for a top of key jumper, 8-2, Winnebago.
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Defending LNI champs look in top form
(Contact James Giago Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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