Division III Section 1 tournament

Valley, Many Farms girls soar on exciting night

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

WINSLOW, February 9, 2012

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As improbable as it may seem, both the Valley Lady Pirates and the Many Farms Lady Lobos have delivered the ultimate Cinderella story thus far.

As former 2A schools, they shouldn't be mopping the floor against teams twice their size.

At least that's been the mentality - until now.

On Tuesday night, both squads erased fourth quarter deficits and surprised their opponents in the first round of the Division III Section I tournament at Winslow High.

First, No. 3 Valley found a way to break through Tuba City's zone defense to post a 33-30 win.

Then, Many Farms capped the wild night with a 46-43 stunner over host Winslow, the tournament's No. 2 seed.

Many Farms will now face Valley on Friday at the Wildcat Den in Chinle with the winner advancing into Saturday night's championship game.

"I'll be honest with you right now," said Many Farms coach Tracy Todacheene. "I'm in shock simply because that was a great team that we beat. They're a solid basketball team and I can't take anything away from them. They played their hearts out and they had the lead until the last few minutes."

And when asked if the win could be considered an upset, the Many Farms coach declined to offer his opinion.

"I'll leave that up to the other coaches and the sports commentators," he said. "Personally I think I've put in a lot of time, with the help of all my assistant coaches, with these girls and I think we deserved to win. I think we are at that level now in terms of winning games like this."

In the same breath, that also could be said of the Valley Lady Pirates who continue to do what they've been doing all season long as they improved their overall record to 29-2.

"We've heard a lot about Tuba City and the type of program they have, but we know how to win games like this," said Valley coach Julia Six. "All we needed to do was play our game, but I think we opened up a lot of eyes because no one thought we could do this.

"Before the game I told the girls they just needed to believe in themselves and that's what they did," she added.

That belief never ceased even though Tuba City looked like they were about to steal the momentum when senior Jamie Roe assisted Kristen Becenti with a bank shot underneath for a 24-23 lead with five minutes left in the game.

Roe then came up with a block at the other end and went coast-to-coast with a layup and was fouled on the play.

Despite missing the free throw she earned the Warriors a 26-23 lead with 4:35 to go in the game.

But in quick succession, the Pirates answered with a couple of inside hoops by junior guard Adriana Nez, who led the team with 10 points.

Before she dropped those buckets, the Pirates had a hard time adjusting to Tuba City's zone defense.

"They had a strong defense," Nez said. "We weren't driving the ball down the middle, but coach told us to keep going to the hole."

And from the sideline, Six urged her team to keep attacking the basket.

The Pirates heeded those words and scored on three straight possessions as junior guard Chelena Betoney started it off by hitting 1-of-2 free throws for a 28-26 lead with 2:04 left in the game.

Tuba City, however, knotted the contest for the sixth time with a 2-point shot from junior forward Shinaya Henry.

At the other end, Betoney broke free from her defender and scooped in a layup for her 9th point of the game before Roe tied the game for the final time at 30-all.

"They knew we were outside shooters and they did a good job of shutting us down," Six said of Tuba City. "We needed to open up their defense and I told the girls to drive and they were afraid to do that because they were afraid of getting blocked."

With 42 seconds left, Nez hit another clutch shot but the turning point came when she forced a Tuba City turnover.

At midcourt, Nez managed to knock the ball off a Tuba City player and it rolled out of bounds and the Pirates regained possession.

The Warriors were forced to foul and with 12 seconds left they put Rolanda Mitchell at the free-throw line and the senior guard hit 1 of 2 for the final margin.

"That was the icing on the cake," Six said of the Nez's forced turnover.

Nonetheless, Tuba City had plenty of time left but Roe's 3-point attempt just missed the mark at the buzzer.

"You know we were not in rhythm in shooting tonight and that usually costs us," said Tuba City coach James Roe as his team dropped to 23-6 for the year. "The other thing we didn't get in was our (fast)breaks. Our defense should have created more opportunities, but I take full responsibility for that."

Roe said they made some mental mistakes defensively, especially late in the game.

"We let them drive to the basket and normally we don't do that," he said. "But Valley played great and they got the job done."

Jamie Roe led Tuba City with eight points while Vernene Shepperd had six.

Many Farms 46, Winslow 43

Like their former 2A conference sisters, the Many Farms Lady Lobos played from behind in the fourth quarter.

But unlike Sanders Valley, Many Farms found themselves in a predicament as they trailed heavily favored Winslow, 42-38, with less than two minutes to go in the game.

The Bulldogs (21-5) gained a 4-point advantage when junior guard Mattea Begaii, who had 12 points, completed an old-fashioned 3-point play midway through the fourth quarter.

But with 1:35 left, Many Farms guard Danekka Yazzie hit 1 of 2 at the free-throw line and, after a series of fouls, teammate Alecia Begay connected on the front end of a 1-and-1 situation to cut the lead in half with all but nine seconds played.

After both teams came up empty on their next possession, Many Farms tied the game at 42-all on a steal by sophomore Brianna Clah, who finished with a game-high 16 points, near midcourt with 1:07 to go, which forced Winslow coach Jerron Jordan to call a timeout.

And just before play resumed, Yazzie was whistled for a foul that sent Winslow sophomore Marcella Joe to the line where she hit 1 of 2, giving Winslow the lead, 43-42.

"The game was intense and I was just trying to play defense," Yazzie later admitted. "I was trying to deny her the ball."

While facing that 1-point deficit the Lobos tried desperately to find an answer, but in the next 58 seconds they missed two shots.

Winslow, on the other hand, didn't help themselves as they coughed up the ball three straight times as they were called for a travel and had two careless passes stolen.

Many Farms didn't take advantage until Yazzie, who scored 8, hit the game-winning basket with eight seconds left.

Five seconds later senior guard Rhonda Lee scored again for Many Farms, courtesy of another Winslow turnover, to end the game 46-43.

"I told them during the huddle that defense was going to be key," Todacheene said. "It's what wins championships and in order for us to make a statement, I told them that they needed to win this game by playing our best defense."

And that's what they did to cap a unforgettable night for two schools that have so much to prove in the new realignment year.

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