Tohatchi state champs see 3 named all stars

FRUITLAND, N.M.

Just the other day, Tanisha Bitsoi came across a stack of cards that had small lists of goals written on them.

File photo
Tohatchi junior Kaiian Mitchell (left) was selected to the First-Team, All-State girls basketball team by the New Mexico High School Coaches Association. Mitchell was one of three Tohatchi players to be named to the all-state team with senior Cheyenne Begay making the first team and Crystal Haley making the second team.

At the start of the basketball season, the Tohatchi head coach had her team write down goals they had, and when she rediscovered the cards months later, she realized they accomplished every last goal including the biggest – win a state title.

The cards reappeared at a good time as three of her players were given New Mexico High School Coaches Association Class 3A All-State honors. Seniors on the team selected for all state were also selected for the 3A/4A All-Star North team and will compete in a North vs. South All-Star game on June 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Cibola High School.

“It made me chuckle and filled with emotion,” Bitsoi said. “Everything they wrote on it, they accomplished it. Everyday we reminded them of what they wrote on those cards. It was just really neat to go back and look at this like that and to see them get what they deserve. We’re beyond proud of them, not only the coaching staff but the community.”

Senior Cheyenne Begay and junior Kalian Mitchell were named to the first team, while senior Crystal Haley was named to the second team.

Bitsoi said for the past few years since her team has advanced in the state tournament, she had hoped that some of her girls were selected for the honor.

She said she knew what they were capable of and was glad to finally see them get what they had long deserved.

“I think all three of them have really great shooting skills. I think that was one of the thing that they looked at, also I think Cheyenne and Kalian’s defense, they really decided that they were going to put more effort into working on their defensive side of the game. And obviously offensively they can score,” Bitsoi said.

“Crystal, she’s always been a factor in the state tournament with her shooting,” Bitsoi said. “I watched the games again (on film) and listening to the commentators and some of their comments that they make about these certain players, they called Crystal the one who kind of sneaks in secretly and silently scores…she’s that x factor to that team success.”

The Lady Cougar all-stars are joined by three fellow state champions from the Shiprock Lady Chieftains.

Shiprock senior Tanisha Begay was selected for the first team and seniors Melanie Secody and Paige Dale were named to the second team.

Henderson said he was a little thrown off that he didn’t have more of his players on the first team, especially since he was led to believe that winning a state title would earn his girls the honor.

While things did not go as he had thought, he said he was not surprised that the three were selected.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Henderson said. “They held us all year round and they carried us all year round.”

Henderson said they had individual performances that were carried out with the team in mind. He said he’s glad that they’re being recognized for their efforts but it should be noted that those same efforts were conducted in the best interest of the team.

Henderson said during the state tournament, Tanisha Begay averaged over 20 points but also put up high numbers in defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds, and put backs.

“Tanisha just had an outstanding performance at the state tournament. She’s been an all-around player offensively and defensively, finding her players, not only that but during timeouts she was encouraging. Paige, she was the swing man for Tanisha. I was waiting for her to spark. She knows how to attach people one-on-one, she was just there and got some big steals at the end and made some shots,” he said. “Melanie was just another contributor with her speed, just her explosion of the three. Just making big threes out of nowhere and her explosive moves to the basket. Defensively she tormented people with her smallness and her speed, she rattled people.”

File photo
Shiprock’s Tanisha Begay (right) was one of three Lady Chieftain players named to the New Mexico High School Coaches Association All-Star team. Begay was selected on the first time while fellow teammates Melanie Secody and Paige Dale were named to the second team.

Henderson said he also had some outstanding performances from some of his younger classmen during the regular season and in the post season. But, he said it was the group of seniors that carried the team to triumph.

“I’m relay proud of them, they really deserve it, they worked hard those three for me. They were at practice everyday, they showed a lot of great leadership,” Henderson said. “When I look at my seniors they did a whole lot. Their stats show it.”

Cheyenne Begay, Crystal Haley, Tanisha Begay, Melanie Secody, Paige Dale, as well as Navajo Preparatory School’s Harlei Haceesa, will compete on the 3A/4A North All-Star team.
Other 3A all-state honorees include Laguna Acoma’s Talia Paytiamo (second team) and Marissa Kie (second team). Paytiamo will also compete in the 3A North vs. South All-Star game as a member of the South team.

Other selections are as follows: In 2A girls, Mescalero Apache’s Jenessa Melendrez (first team) and Lauryn Yazos (second team) were give all-state honors. Both will compete with the South team in the 1A/2A North vs. South All-Star game on June 9 at 6 p.m. at Cibola High School.

Alamo Navajo’s Sherriah Barbone, Jemez Valley’s Kyleen Romero, Ramah’s Cauy DuBoise, and Navajo Pine’s Koqua Louis were also selected to compete in the 1A/2A All-Star game with the North team.

In Class 5A, Kirtland Central’s Haile Gleason and Aztec’s Myra McCaskill were named to the second-team all-state. Bloomfield’s Destiny Walther was named to the 5A/6A All-Star North team. Grants’ Destiny Chavez and Caroline Bachman were named to the South team. The 5A/56 girls’ All-Star game will take place on June 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Cibola High School.

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Categories: Basketball

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at sunnie@navajotimes.com.