ST. STEPHENS – Even though the basketball season has been over for many middle and high schoolers around Fremont County for almost two months, that doesn’t mean that there are not opportunities for some to show off their skills on the court.

One of those opportunities took place two weeks ago at the March Mission Madness Basketball Tournament at the historic Keel Gym behind St. Stephens Mission Church. That was where eight women’s teams and 11 men’s teams played against one another in an attempt to raise funds for the L.A. Primetime team that consists of sixth through eighth graders.

“The tournament was to raise money for the girls to get to other tournaments,” Ricky Blackburn Jr. said about the first of two tournaments.

L.A. Primetime consists of many girls from the reservation as well as girls from Lander and around Fremont County, all of whom went undefeated in the March Mission Madness tournament against grown adults and even some college players.

“They played pretty [well] against those girls, even the college players they faced off against,” Blackburn Jr. said.

Now the girls, as well as some of the other teams that participated at Keel Gym two weeks ago, look to win again this upcoming weekend at the same location for the Spring Showout Basketball Tournament. The idea of the tournaments were not new to Blackburn and his father, Ricky Blackburn Sr., who put on plenty of big games before COVID hindered their ability to do so.

“We’ve been running tournaments for as long as we can remember,” Blackburn Jr. said. “COVID hit us and put a stop to everything on the reservation, nothing was open, nobody could play … Now we’re finally able to start doing this again; we’re real happy to do so too.”

Blackburn Jr., father of Paisley Blackburn, has seen what his daughter and the L.A. Primetime team is capable of and knows that they can go out and win any tournament they play in which is one of the main reasons he helps fundraise for them.

“Basketball is kind of like our religion,” Blackburn said. “We’re just very appreciative of St. Stephens for helping us and letting us use the gym … Giving us that venue made it all possible.”

Paisley, to nobody’s surprise, won MVP of the March Mission Madness tournament after putting up 20-plus points in every game, including the championship game that she helped win over adult women. Even though Paisley is only in middle school the two tournaments are a great opportunity for scouts to see some of the local talent, as well as talent from around other states.

“We’ve got a men’s team from Montana, a women’s team from Minnesota and Idaho and even a team from Utah,” Blackburn Jr. said about the upcoming Spring Showout.

As far as the men went, the March Mission Madness winning team “HoopLife” consisted of some familiar faces as well with Central Wyoming College Rustler Javon Nesbit and Wind River Cougar superstar Chaumbrey Romero both joined in on the fun and earned All Star status after the game. The men’s MVP was Hudda Curry.

Everybody is invited to watch the teams battle it out over the three-day event at Keel Gym, with all money going to the L.A. Primetime team and their multiple tournament trips planned that will help grow their skill and pit them against tougher and tougher competition.

For more information you can contact Blackburn Jr. at 307-840-5107.

By: Shawn O’Brate

Photos below submitted by Ricky Blackburn Jr. :

The men’s side of the March Mission Madness tournament was won by HoopLife, consisting of a few CWC players and local high school talent.