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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Senior Lauren Lefthand To Play Ball In The Land Of Down Under
by Lailani Upham - Char-Koosta News
Lauren Lefthand, 18, Polson High School Senior and point guard for the Lady Pirates has been invited to participate in the Down Under Sports Mountain Conference Girls Basketball Team hosted on the Gold Coast of Australia this summer. "I am honored to be an ambassador of not only community and state but also our country," said Lefthand. (Courtesy photo)

Polson, MT — The lifetime passion and dedication of basketball opened up a once-in-a-lifetime over-seas opportunity for Polson High School Senior Lauren Lefthand. However, the chance to go to Australia this summer did not come from winning championships or winning games for that matter; it was from the skills she gained as a person on the court.

"I'm excited and honored to play (for Montana) and a chance to play with other people," said Lauren.

Lauren received word this month that the International Down Under Sports of Australia selected her to represent Montana on the 2017 Montana Mountain Conference Girls Basketball Team in July.

"It's just super," said her grandmother Naida Lefthand. "You don't hear about too many students getting this kind of opportunity to be able to go outside the country to play ball."

It's not the most common news to hear a student from a community receiving such an honor, however, Lefthand comes from a dedicated basketball family says her dad, Oskie Lefthand. When Lauren's older brother Payton was in eighth grade, he was selected to travel to England to play basketball through the National Basketball Camps.

Oskie said the love of basketball was instilled in all three of his kids for as long as they could remember. He said it was basketball that kept his young mind focused and away from "the bad stuff" and he wanted the same and even more for his own kids.

"I always taught them it wasn't just about shooting a basketball," said Oskie. It was also about bigger opportunities he added.

Oskie said when Lauren was a kid along with her other siblings he was running drills in their living room, and even helped coach throughout their lives.

"Lauren always had a high I.Q. in basketball. I seen in fourth grade as a point guard her stepping up to leadership," said her dad.

Lauren started playing in 3 on 3 basketball matches since the fourth grade. Although, well skilled in the game, Lauren said her high school season wasn't so hot.

Through it all, she said, the lesson learned was "You lose some and you win some."

"It (basketball) taught me a lot in life, especially playing with teams. Even though we were losing; I'd keep pushing the team to not give up," said Lauren.

"I watched her team getting beat by 30 points and see Lauren get in there and encourage her team mates," said her mother, Renee Pierre. "That's just her to make the best out it," Pierre said.

"Being a team leader was hard at times," she said. "I'd be frustrated. I'd want to show my emotions, but I couldn't." "I've always told my grand kids to conduct themselves in a good way, because you never know who is watching you," said Naida.

"I almost didn't play this year," said Lefthand. Lefthand lost one of her biggest fans last year; her grandmother, Marian Andrew. She said she knew she'd want her to keep on going — so she did.

The tenacity on the court helped Lefthand in the classroom she said. "It helped me to keep pushing forward in school."

"It's not about winning or losing, it's how you evolve as a player and a person in life," said Oskie.

Lauren looks back on her high school career and says it was very meaningful – both her grandmother's were present, mom, dad, siblings and extended family were her biggest drive to keep on playing.

Lefthand's plans to pursue a nursing degree at Salish Kootenai College after graduation. Lauren's two aunts are in nursing and she said caring for her grandmother when she was sick woke her up to the career. The other hint to pursue a nursing degree came when she recently helped with her cousin's labor. "I was the only one to calm her down." The nurses said he should become nurse and that she could handle it. Choosing her home tribal college allows her to play for the SKC Lady Bison, an added bonus she said.

Lauren and her family are currently raising $6,000 to cover the cost of the nine-day Australia Tournament package. Donation sponsorship is handled through the International Down Under Sports foundation. Any contribution donation will go into a drawing for a trip for two to Australia and Hawaii and/or a subsequent drawing for a 5-day cruise for two.

For more information contact Lauren Lefthand at (406) 260-8909.

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About Down Under Sports
Down Under Sports was founded in February 1989 based upon the dream of a New Zealander by the name of George O'Scanlon. George fell in love with athletics, especially American football (gridiron) as a young man growing up in his native country of New Zealand. His desire over the years has been to promote gridiron, not only to the people of New Zealand, but also to Australia where he lived for many years. That is why George started the Down Under Bowl which eventually led to the establishment of the Down Under Hoops Classic and the Down Under International Games. The Down Under Sports programs use the common language of sports to bridge the continents and provide a forum for athletes from around the globe to compete head-to-head in the sport they love. During the past twenty-seven years, Down Under Sports has had the opportunity to share the land down under with tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States. Some prior standouts of the Down Under Bowl include Jake "The Snake" Plummer (Denver Broncos), Ahman Green (Green Bay Packers), Rob Morris (Indianapolis Colts), Dave Dixon (Minnesota Vikings) and Jesse Williams (Seattle Seahawks).

"...To use the common language of sports to bridge the continents."
George O'Scanlon, Down Under Sports President

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