H-Unit three-peated in the Asian-Pacific Islander Holiday Tournament with a 32-30 win over North Block, the prior three-peat Champions. H-Unit’s Dahvee “Sleep” Sophal iced the game from the free-throw line.
In past tournaments, the housing units at San Quentin formed teams that battled for a trophy created from cardboard, gold-foil and a Ping-Pong ball: the Becky with the Good Hair Holiday Championship Trophy. Becky was passed to the winning team after each tournament. Prison guards confiscated Becky in a shakedown so Kevin Neang dedicated the Nov. 12 tournament to his co-organizer’s getting a parole date.
“My good friend Vi Chau is going home after serving 23 years. I wanted to get us here to compete and have fun. It’s a reward for all of us doing programs and staying out of trouble.”
Chau, sentenced to 26-to-life for homicide, was found suitable by the parole board in November. The Vietnamese native expects immigration to release him after about 90 days because he says they have to honor an agreement that the U.S. can only deport Vietnamese people who arrived in the states after 1995. He arrived in 1980.
“I’m ready to reunite with my family and get back into the community and do some good,” Chau said. “ICE is gonna pick me up — it’s frustrating but I have to accept it.”
At 5-feet-6, Chau plays basketball with the best of them. He used basketball to stay positive while passing his time. He helped organize the tournaments to bring everyone together so they could have fun.
“Every time I play basketball, I feel like I’m free,” Chau said.
He played point-guard for North Block and wanted to win to dedicate the game to Sophal and Neang.
H-Unit had other plans.
North Block and H-Unit reached the finals after battling through the earlier rounds. The first team to score 32 would win the whole full-court basketball tournament.
David Le, Sagar Patel, Roland Paras, Harash Patang and Sophal represented H-Unit.
Adnan Khan, Will Tupou, Bikkai Singh, Alladin Pangilinan and Vi made up the North Block squad.
Le kicked the game off with a three-pointer for H-Unit, then led his team to a 9-2 lead with 5 points.
After five straight points scored by Pangilinan, North Block swung the game around. They took a 20-13 lead.
H-Unit went on another run and took the lead at 28-22, needing only two more baskets to win the tournament. They decided to get those four points from behind the three-point line.
“I was so open, I was goaded into taking it,” Patel said.
Le and Patel missed several three-point attempts that ended up as defensive rebounds for North Block.
Tupou started the North Block charge with a layup off a rebound.
But then Patel finally nailed a three to put his team one point from victory at 31-24.
Khan hit Pangilinan with a dime at the elbow, and he nailed a three. Khan followed with another to make the score 31-30.
A foul put Sophal on the free-throw line with two chances to win the game. The first attempt bounced off the back of the rim. The second won the game for H-Unit. Sophal finished with 3 points, Patel 11 and Le 8.
Pangilinan and Khan refused to give up and combined for 21 points, 11 and 10 respectively, in the close but losing effort. Khan credits his determination to Sophal.
“Sleep [Sophal], I just don’t like him,” Khan joked. “That fire inside of me comes from that dislike of Sleep.”
“That’s why I made the game winning shot — for everybody who doubted me,” Sophal said.
“He thinks hitting that game-winning shot extinguished my fire, but I like him even less now,” Khan continued to joke.