There was something different about the Shiprock Lady Chieftains this season.
It wasn’t their ability to shoot the basketball well or being able to play tough defense, it was the fire that burned behind the 14 sets of determined eyes and the fight within their hearts.
That fire and fight they embodied led them to the 2017 U.S. Bank State Basketball Championships 4A title game where they defeated Hope Christian, 47-42.
SLIDESHOW: NM Basketball Playoffs 2017Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson said it was that fire and fight that he saw in his team that allowed them to defeat Hope Christian, a team that has gradually become their state tournaments rivals over the years.
“I was just hoping that the girls put up a good fight,” Henderson said. “I didn’t really think we were capable of pulling it off, but Hope Christian’s been together for those four years, and for these girls to pull it off like that it just overwhelms me.”
Shiprock defeated Hope Christian in the semifinals in 2014, then Hope Christian got revenge in the semifinals in 2015 and again in 2016 when they beat the Chieftains in the finals.
At the start of their rematch in the title game, it began to look as if the Lady Huskies were on their way to their third consecutive state title.
The two teams stayed close in the first quarter, as Shiprock was first to jump on the scoreboard and led 8-7 after the first quarter. Hope Christian charged back in the second quarter, going on an 11-1 run to start the period. At the half, the Huskies led 23-12.
At the end of the half, Hope Christian ran down the clock to keep the Chieftains from cutting into their lead, which was something Henderson was expecting.
“I know Hope’s done this in the past with us,” the Shiprock coach said, while noting that they had to regroup after halftime.
Known for their strong shooting abilities, Shiprock only shot 13 percent from the three-point line in the first half and 22 percent overall.
Henderson said he encouraged his team to continue shooting, knowing their chances were better to shoot the ball.