NyaStrong Warriors win fourth grade Hoopfest championship in Spokane

Girls claim multiple games en route to victory in largest 3-on-3 tournament globally


The Tenino- and Nisqually Valley-based NyaStrong Warriors basketball program continued its winning ways in late June as the team defeated five other programs en route to becoming the fourth grade champion at Hoopfest in Spokane.

Hoopfest is regarded as the largest 3-on-3 tournament in the world. The abundance of competition was no match for the fierce fourth graders of the NyaStrong Warriors program, however.

Following the tournament victory, head coach Richard Durham asked the girls three questions about their performance in Spokane.

First, he asked them if any of the games were harder than practice, to which they answered no. He then asked them what their favorite championship is, to which the girls answered “the next one.” His final question was asking the team if the championship was worth the hard work, to which they unanimously agreed that it was.

“There were a lot of moving parts in prepping for Hoopfest. Once we got there and got settled, it started to get fun,” Durham told the Nisqually Valley News. “We are a very tight, connected program. So the entire trip worked out great for us. Besides us, Tenino third grade girls, ‘Lil Hoopers,’ won their bracket as well. It was a weekend for Tenino youth girls basketball.”

Describing the journey of winning the fourth grade Hoopfest tournament, Durham said the NyaStrong Warriors Academy (NWA) “took the hard road” to winning the tournament after taking a loss in the second match of the tournament.

“The score was 9 to 8, them. They called the game with a little over five minutes left on the clock,” Durham said. “Bottom line, the girls did great. I didn’t do a good enough job coaching. To be champions, we had to win five games in a row, as well as beat the team twice we lost to in game two. That is exactly what we did.”

Durham described the championship game as being the “entire tournament in a nutshell.” He said, at the 12-minute mark, the game was halted for a rain delay.

“The unknown factor of if they were going to call the game because of the weather was stressful. Once play resumed, the girls held them scoreless for the last eight minutes of the game,” Durham said. “We hit the game-tying shot with around four minutes left, then hit the game-winning shot with about a minute and 30 seconds left. It was an incredible team effort.”

Durham added that his best memories of the trip included seeing how closely the girls bonded on and off the court, how they played for each other, and how their team chemistry continues to grow through each practice and game.

“The chemistry on and off the court is incredible. The whole weekend was a blast,” Durham said. “The looks on the girls and their parents’/families’ faces after we won the championship. No words can describe how amazing that was to see in person. When you see putting the work in come full circle to winning a championship — very special moment. Keep them safe and make sure they have fun. Everything plays out.”

Kora Hadaller said the trip to Spokane was fun, and she loved spending time with her teammates and family at the world’s largest 3-on-3 tournament.

“It was like a journey. We won, and then we lost the second game, so we had to climb back up to play that team twice to win it all,” Hadaller said. “My favorite moment was when we won the championship game because it was raining, and we were so tired and wet, but we battled and fought and came together as a team to win it.”

Teammate Janna Perkins also described the trip to Spokane as being a fun memory. She said she got to ride to the tournament with her best friend, Kora, and her brother, Knox.

“It felt like my teammates had a lot of fun, and they worked really hard for it,” Perkins said.

“My favorite moment was being with my family and friends and seeing them having a lot of fun.”

The twins on the team, Emily and Emma Ruiz, each said their time in Spokane was fun. Emily said, despite the long drive, she was glad to be able to spend time and make new memories with her family and teammates.

“It was fun being with teammates and having a team dinner,” Emily said. “It was amazing to win Hoopfest. We needed each other to win. My favorite moment was me and my teammates having fun in between the games, enjoying treats and spending time with our other team friend, Swishsters.”

Her sister, Emma, said she was excited and nervous to play in the Hoopfest tournament. Despite that, Emma said she made many new memories by bonding with teammates and family.

“A new great memory was coming from the bottom to win the tournament. A bad memory was game two, but that memory gave me strength to come out and play better,” Emma said. “Winning the tournament felt really good. We went against the same team from game two, and I was excited about our comeback. My favorite moment was winning the championship, seeing my teammates work really hard, and my family being there.”

The twins’ mother, Rebecca Ruiz, said Emily and Emma joined the NWA program in April, and since then, she’s seen growth not only in their basketball skills but also in their character.

“NyaStrong has built confidence, responsibility and commitment. They practice teamwork and sportsmanship on and off the court,” Rebecca said. “NyaStrong is a place and team where they can practice this. I’ve seen growth and they’ve been happy.”

Kora Hadaller’s mother, Sammi Hadaller, said her daughter has benefited from the NWA program by equipping her with skills on and off the court.

“She has tremendously improved her ball handling, defense and overall grit on the court. Furthermore, it has helped her learn how to be part of something bigger than herself,” Sammi said. “She has developed camaraderie with her teammates and learned how to be a leader through NWA. Lastly, a big benefit is that she has been given tools to work through adversity.”

Kimberly Perkins, Janna’s mother, said the NWA program allows Janna to have the opportunity to practice and learn the game “she holds dear with her friends.”

“The skills she is learning will carry over to her other sports and activities in life, all while building everlasting relationships and memories,” Kimberly said.

Durham added that the 2024 NWA program is a new team, and that Hoopfest was the girls’ first games and tournament together.

After the team won its division at Hoopfest in Spokane, Durham asked the girls three questions.

First, he asked them if any of the games were harder than practice, to which they answered no. He then asked them what their favorite championship is, to which the girls answered “the next one.” His final question was asking the team if the championship was worth the hard work, to which they unanimously agreed that it was.

“We prepared with purpose,” he said. “We make sure our practices are harder than our games, and that hasn’t failed this yet.”