When Louisville plays Connecticut in the NCAA women’s championship tomorrow, fans in Northwest Indian country will be cheering. That’s because two Native American sisters are leading the Louisville Cardinals, and they hail from a reservation in northeast Oregon.
In Mission, Ore., and nearby Pendleton, it’s pretty clear basketball’s a big deal. There are basketball camp names embroidered on people’s jackets, team bumper stickers are everywhere and lately – there have been a whole lot of house parties.
Shoni Schimmel and her sister Jude have achieved rock-star status here. Corinne Sams is a family friend. She attended a party in the reservation housing projects for the game that put Louisville in the final two.
“When the game was over you go outside and you could hear people cheering," Sams says. "All the kids in the neighborhood had a basketball and were outside shooting. You know they were pretending they were Shoni and Jude – the boys and girls the same.”
Sams says the Schimmel sisters don’t get back home much anymore, but she says the young women know they’ve got the Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla people behind them.
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