Madras teen Brianna Stacona got what she wished for -- a basketball championship for her fourteenth birthday.
An avid and talented basketball player, Stacona joined the Washington HotShotz team and competed in the 13 and under Division II National Basketball Championships in Phoenix on June 25 to July 1.
After facing ten teams during the week, Stacona and the HotShotz team captured the national title.
"We couldn't believe we won. Everybody got teary-eyed and it's hard to explain how excited we were," said Stacona, whose fourteenth birthday was June 28, just days before the July 1 championship game. "That (winning the title) was the best birthday present I've ever had."
Though her mother could not be there for the championship game, she was there to celebrate the victory over the phone.
"When I heard they won, I screamed over the phone," said Stacona's mother Blanca. "I knew she could do it. I was hoping she would come home with the championship."
The starting point guard for the team and the only Oregon player, Stacona was instrumental in leading the team to a close 51-50 overtime victory against the Moses Lake Thunderettes.
"She did whatever we asked her to do. She led the team and set up the plays and handled the ball really well," said HotShotz team manager Ogie Olanday. "There was a lot of pressure on her and she handled it very well."
The HotShotz faced Moses Lake three times prior to the final game, and handed the Thunderettes their first loss, 37-32, earlier in the day, when the two top-seeded teams matched up to play the first championship game.
While the HotShotz came out with the crown in the end, it wasn't without a tough fight. Coming into the tournament, the HotShotz lost their very first game to the Arizona Sting.
"I think the loss actually helped us because the girls knew we had to work really hard," Olanday said of the 47-46 loss on June 26. "After that, we did really well."
Competing in the pool play, the HotShotz went on to defeat Moses Lake, 43-41 on June 26. The following day, the young team downed the Arizona Lady Hype, 41-38, and the Hoop N' Beauty, 47-37.
In the championship bracket, the No. 2 seeded HotShotz swept the No. 3 seeded Yakima Wave, 60-49. The Lady HotShotz went on to down the Lady Texas Express, 63-54, on June 29 before their June 30 loss to Moses Lake.
The HotShotz faced the Lady Texas Express on June 30 to tie, 46-46, before heading into the championship round against Moses Lake.
For the tournament, Stacona averaged nine points per game, eight assists and four rebounds per outing.
A star player for the HotShotz team, Stacona not only left positive impressions on her teammates, but her coaches as well.
"Brianna was phenomenal. She's really something special," said third-year assistant coach Kathy LaVern. "Her style of play is way beyond the eighth grade level. It's a coaches dream to have that kind of player on the team."
According to team manager Olanday, the route to victory wasn't an easy one for the HotShotz team, as the girls played close games throughout the tournament.
"The tournament was so competitive. Everyone had a chance to win, it was just a matter of who wanted it more and I guess our girls wanted it more," said Olanday.
With the HotShotz season drawing to a close after the national championship victory, Stacona will now wait to start high school this fall and play for the Madras White Buffalos.