Word spread like wildfire Wednesday on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus.
HINU’s women’s basketball team earned an at-large berth in next week’s NAIA Div. II tournament.
“There are a lot of happy people here,” Indians’ coach Phil Homeratha said. “It’s a biggie. We’re one of just 32 teams selected, and you can’t beat that.”
This will be the first postseason appearance by a Haskell basketball team since the school transitioned from a junior college to a four-year school and joined the NAIA a decade ago.
The Indians’ first-round game will be against Shawnee (Ohio) State next week at the Tyson Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
No Haskell team had reached the post-season since 1999 when Homeratha’s juco women advanced to the NJCAA Div. II national tourney, captured third place and finished with a 28-2 record.
This year’s Haskell team has compiled a 20-8 record and features two first-team All-Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference picks in seniors Justina George and Maria Parker. George, a 5-foot-7 guard from Ramah, N.M., was tapped MCAC player of the year after averaging 18.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.9 steals.
Ranked in the NAIA Div. II Top 25 poll all season, the Indians weren’t a lock for a tourney bid after falling to Peru State, 84-82, in the first round of the league tournament.
“Folks around told me we were OK,” Homeratha said, “but you never know. I was pretty scared when Peru beat us.”