PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Angel Goodrich wanted to fit in one more tournament of "just playing around" before she went to work.
The incoming freshman for the Kansas women's program returned to the Native American Basketball Tournament for a farewell tour and almost returned home sans championship.
That is, until a tipped pass and an assist from younger sister Nikki Lewis, leading to Goodrich's layup, put Oklahoma's Anonymous squad ahead by one with 16 seconds remaining.
And only Goodrich, with the flair and hustle that earned the 5-foot-5 point guard a four-year trip to Lawrence, Kan., could seal the deal, on a free throw with 8.8 seconds left to play. She sealed the game – and a tournament MVP nod – by hitting one of two, as Anonymous edged the local favorite, the Navajo Nation Lady Cats, 66-64, in the championship.
"We didn't want anybody to know who we were," Fayth Goodrich Lewis, Anonymous coach and the sisters' mother, told the audience after the game. It must have worked, because the squad, which won the 2007 title under a different name, might have surprised people. Heading into the championship, Anonymous was a perfect 6-0, winning by an average of nearly 30 points per game.
On the flip side, the Navajo Nation Lady Cats had been packing fans into the gyms for every game. Also a perfect 6-0, the Lady Cats had a 40-plus-point edge in their wins behind the tough play of 2008 graduates Telisha Joe and April Christie.
Joe got into foul trouble, sitting for the final eight minutes of the first half of the sixth annual NABI championship. The Lady Cats didn't let that hurt them, as Nicole Tsosie hit a three during the half's closing seconds to take the team's first lead.
Things didn't look good for Goodrich and her teammates, despite a halftime phone call to brother Zack, who plays at Kansas' Sterling College. While the coach was asking her son for advice on what to tell her team, Goodrich was talking to her mentor about anything but the game.
"I started crying at halftime," said Goodrich, who scored 22 of her game-high 26 points in the second half. "I did not play right. … He helps me in so many ways. I just hear his voice and it calms me."
No matter the hustle or steals, many by Goodrich and Lewis, Anonymous worked itself into a 10-point deficit, 58-48, before Joe fouled out with five minutes remaining.
"We saw we could handle it without her (in the first half)," said Christie, who led the Lady Cats with 13. "But with her it would have been a lot easier."
Without Joe's defense on the court, Goodrich and Anonymous kicked it into overdrive. The point guard scored 10 of her team's final 16, while the Oklahoma squad's tough defense forced six consecutive turnovers and allowed just six points – all from the line – during the final five minutes.
In the final minute, Anonymous' Brea Brewer stole the ball on the inbound and scored to put her team down by just one. Then a blur that could have been Brewer, Sukey Deere or Ashley Mekeel tipped the Lady Cats' long inbound and sent it to Lewis, who set up the game-changing Goodrich play.
"It was sad to see it come down to their play together," Goodrich Lewis said after the game. "Because this is probably the last time they'll play together."
After Sequoyah High of Tahlequah, Okla., where Goodrich and Lewis played together for two years, missed out on its fourth straight Oklahoma 3A championship in March, Goodrich was disappointed, until NABI appeared on the calendar and Kansas allowed her to play.
With three Sequoyah teammates – Lewis, Brewer and Deere – on the court and her mom on the bench, it was a farewell tour that Goodrich won't forget anytime soon.
Despite her efforts, Goodrich was surprised to be named the tournament MVP. "I thought (the MVP would be) my sister. I'm so proud of her; she did awesome. … I hope she continues playing. She usually doesn't play unless it's with me. She doesn't play summer ball or anything like that, which I wish she did. She's got a lot of talent." Lewis scored 12 and picked off likely as many passes in the game. … In the semifinals, the Lady Cats knocked off Arizona Hoops, 70-41, while Anonymous advanced with a 67-49 win against the Lady Phoenix team. … For the third-place trophy, Arizona Hoops made quick work of the Lady Phoenix with a 76-42 win.
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Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at email@example.com.