Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Window Rock High School hosts "Showdown on the Rez"

November 10, 2018 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

The community of Fort Defiance, Window Rock Unified School District and Bee Holdzil Fighting Scouts Events Center will be in the national spotlight this Sunday, when perennial national powers, No. 4 Baylor Bears (2-0) faces No. 23 Arizona State University Sun Devils (1-0) in a NCAA women's basketball game.

The game billed as "Showdown on the Rez", is being played on Veterans' Day and serves as a celebration of Native American Heritage Month and is recognizing and honoring Native Americans who served in the military armed forces.

Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ESPN2 is televising the game nationally. ASU's Office of American Indian Initiatives is instrumental in bringing the gsme onto the Navajo Nation.

"Over many decades, the Native American community has done so much to embrace our women's basketball program and we felt there was no better time than now to make the journey to where "Rezball" originated as a way to show our appreciation for all their support," ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said in a news release. "At one of our home game each season, our fans have had the opportunity to celebrate Native American culture and tradition. They get to hear the unique music, eat the food and enjoy arts of the Native people. Now it's time to take our team and our Tempe community to the special place where this lifestyle lives day in and day out."

Turner Thorne continued, "Additionally, we know that there are many Veterans within the Native American community, especially Vietnam Veterans, who have not been properly acknowledged for their sacrifice for our country. Per capita, Native Americans had the highest record of service out of any ethnic group in the Vietnam War, with over 40,000 serving. We will use our game in Fort Defiance as an opportnity to share their stories, celebrate them and officially welcome these Veterans home."

Turner Thorne said she would like to thank Baylor University and head coach Kim Mulkey for believing in the importance of playing this game and the impact that it will make in the Native American community.

Window Rock school district athletic director Ryan Dodson said the premier NCAA women's basketball game is excitement and optimism.

"As each day passing day goes by, there are new details that will make this event a memorable experience for everyone involved," Dodson said. "The national spotlight is a great feature of this event. Big events like this happen all the time in big cities and for our (school) district it is a chance for the community and school district to share in a unique experience that will showcase a sport that everyone loves in this community."

Four former ASU women's basketball players will be honored. Navajo players Ryneldi Becenti (1992-93), Kalene Carl (1997), Michelle Tom (1998-99) and Rainy Crisp (2000-03).

Becenti is one of ASU's greatest all-time players. She was inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame and was the Sun Devils' women's basketball program's first player to have its jersey retired.

Dodson said ASU and Baylor's practice sessions is open to the public at the Events Center on Saturday. He said ASU has scheduled their practice from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. After practice, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., coaches and players will be available for Meet and Greet, including picture taking, autographs and conversation.

 Dodson said Baylor's pracrice is set for 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. From 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Coaches will be available for Meet and Greet for picture taking, signing autographs and conversation.

"This (NCAA women's basketball game) will create more opportunities for our student-athletes to see what it is like to be a Division I NCAA athlete," Dodson said. "The sport of basketball is so popular in this community and to the (Navajo) reservation. This event is a celebration of the sport of basketball."

Baylor defeated Nicholls State, 100-38, and knocked off Saint Francis, (PA.), 116-58.

Baylor is paced by two-time All-America, 6-foot-7 senior Kalani Brown. She is Big 12 Player of the Year.

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey is a former two-time All-America at Louisiana Tech. She was a member of Team USA's Olympic women's basketball gold medal team in 1984 in Los Angeles. She also won a gold medal in Pan-Am Games in 1984.

Kianna Ibis is ASU's top player. She was First Team Pac-12 and was the conference's leading scorer.

Turner Thorne enters her 22nd year as ASU's head coach.

ASU began its season this past Tuesday. The Sun Devils chalked up an 81-43 win over Incarnate Word.

Dodson said the Events Center seating capacity is 6,500. He said ticket sales has been steady. He said Window Rock athletic office will continue selling tickets on Saturday and prior to the game.