The fourth graders of area recreational basketball team NyaStrong Warriors have big shoes to fill — their own.
The girls were champions of the 2019-20 season of the Puyallup Parks and Recreation League, and have come back to the competition strong, making it to the championship game in both of the 3-on-3 tournaments they have played so far this summer.
The team has practiced 14 of the 16 months since that championship title was awarded in March of 2020, but with COVID-19-related shutdowns, the team didn’t play an official game in 518 days, says Coach Richard Durham.
To get ready for the regular season, the team is playing in 3-on-3 tournaments for the rest of the summer, culminating in Spokane’s Hoopfest on Sept. 11-12.
“Because of Yelm High School enrollment, we are a school division, B league program, basically the lowest division, and we are playing and beating club AAU teams, the highest division for Washington state middle school championships,” Durham said. “Our record for the last two weekends is 7-4 all against AAU teams.”
Capital City 3-on-3 Tournament
The NyaStrong Warriors were ousted in the championship game of Capital City 3-on-3 tournament played Aug. 7-8, but not before amassing seven games in their favor throughout the competition.
“The Capital City 3-on-3 was our first tournament ever with this group,” Durham said. “We played an older team from Tri-Cities and, in the championship game, we were ahead late in the game. We just couldn’t hold the lead, because we’re young. They played hard. They played fast. They played physical. ... They busted their butts and played their best on everything.”
Shilshore Bay 3-on-3 Tournament
The NyaStrong Warriors also made it to the championship game in a tournament at Shilshore Bay, played Aug. 14-15. Despite considerable effort, and a mid-tournament blowout, the team came up short in the final game.
“I’m a little emotional when I talk about it,” Durham said. “I love my girls and I am so proud of them. They worked their (butts) off to play for me and I know that. The harder we work, the more fun we have. … Right now, we need to work on getting more games so we learn how to finish and we’ll be fine.”
Ultimately, the team is excited to be back on the court and play hard together.
Pippa Powers, the rookie on the team, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play.
“I like playing with my teammates,” Powers said. “I like playing defense and playing offense. We’re very, very thankful to play.”
Isabella Vazquez, a guard, said basketball is the sport for her.
“Basketball’s good,” she said. “I like it. I love my teammates. We did good defense and offense, playing hard and having fun.”
Hattie Curry, the team captain, said she’s happy with how the team is shaping up.
“I lead by example,” Curry said. “What I like about basketball is I like the teammates that I have and I like it when I rebound and make a basket, like a layup.”
Durnham and the Nyastrong Warriors are proud to have played so well in their first couple tournaments, they said, and they can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer will bring.
The team includes Hattie Curry, guard; Isabella Vazquez, guard; Millie Mohrweis, center; Pippa Powers, wing; Cheyenne Rachor, guard; and Olivia Brame, wing.