Umatilla Indian Reservation rallies behind sisters playing in NCAA tournament
Residents of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are rallying together to support two of their own who are playing in the NCAA women's basketball championship game tonight.
Shoni and Jude Schimmel are on the women's basketball team for the University of Louisville, but their roots are in Umatilla County.
As the sisters try to win tonight's game against the University of Connecticut, an entire nation of supporters will be behind them.
Just over 3,000 people call the Umatilla Indian Reservation home.
But this small community has been launched into the national spotlight thanks to two girls - sisters actually - Jude and Shoni Schimmel.
"It's awesome. It's very exciting. It's overhelming. I mean, it's hard to put into words" said Titto Moses, grandmother.
The two girls will play the biggest game of their lives so far tonight - the NCAA women's basketball championship game.
And Indian reservations across the country are behind them.
"They used to be representing Umatilla Tribe. Now, they're representing the whole Indian Nation across the United States" said Moses.
The girls grew up on the Umatilla reservation, and played basketball at Hermiston High School, even went to the state championships.
Mike Royer coached the girls and says with Shoni, he knew he had something special.
"I remember when we made the trips to the state tournament her freshman and sophomore years, saying that it wouldn't surprise me at all to see her be a very successful Division I college basketball player. It wouldn't surprise me for her to take the next step and play in the WNBA" said Royer.
Family members aren't surprised by the girls' success either.
They say the sisters always seemed to be practicing their game, even at a young age.
"They were always dribbling a basketball in the house, out playing with the boys in the street, playing against her older brother and older cousins, and that's really how she got better" said John Barkley, cousin.
So now, supporters are rallying together for the Schimmels.
Even the Wildhorse Resort and Casino is behind the pair, as everyone in Umatilla hopes for a win.
"They made this spot famous, and they're doing what they like, and they're doing the best job, and they're gonna win a championship tonight" said Moses.
Tonight's game starts at 5:30.
Wildhorse Resort and Casino is showing the game.
All ages are welcome.