'Prep's free throws win against Magdalena

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

RIO RANCHO, N.M., March 8, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Navajo Prep Lady Eagles players pretend to pull back an arrow in their bows as their teammate shoots Tuesday morning at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

T he Navajo Prep Lady Eagles remember last year's state quarterfinal lost to district rival and eventual state champion Navajo Pine.

"We still talk about that Navajo Pine loss," said Navajo Prep head coach Rainy Crisp, after her team beat the No. 5 seeded Magdalena Steers, 56-54, on Tuesday during the New Mexico Class 2A quarterfinals at the Santa Ana Star Center.

"It really drives us to push ourselves even harder because we know where it could have led last year," she added. "From that game last year, every small thing counts. That's what we learned."

When No. 4 Navajo Prep clashed with the Steers on Tuesday, they had to rely on intense defensive pressure, along with clutch 3-point and free-throw shooting, to overcome a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

"Once we got the momentum, we kept it," said Crisp. "It came in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter."

The momentum, Crisp said, began when Briana Kee hit a 3-pointer with 4:50 remaining to bring her team within three points, 42-39.

Following an offensive put-back by Magdalena's Kameron Armstrong, which put the score at 44-39, Navajo Prep went on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 44-all.

Prep's Danielle Coleman went 2 for 2 at the free-throw line, while Kee registered her second 3-pointer of the night to tie the game.

On the next two possessions, Coleman scored on a fast break for a brief 46-44 Navajo Prep lead.

The 2-point lead by Prep was erased when Magdalena's Keanda Chavez, who had a game-high 19 points, converted on a 3-point play to regain the lead for the Steers, 47-46.

With 2:40 remaining, Navajo Prep regained a 48-47 lead when Nakisha Antonio drew a foul on Magdalena's Alicia Armijo, who fouled out, and netted both of her penalty shots.

After Magdalena failed to convert on the ensuing possession, the Eagles worked the ball around the arc until Kee drilled an NBA-range 3-pointer for a 51-47 lead.

"I didn't even see the line," said Kee, who finished with 17 points. "It surprised me when it went in."

"I was yelling, 'No, no!' from the sideline," Crisp said with a laugh. "And she pulls it."

As much as Crisp didn't want Kee to pull the trigger, it shifted the momentum Navajo Prep's way for the rest of the game.

Navajo Prep's Antonio and Kee drew fouls at the 1:17 and 1:02 marks, respectively, and went 4 for 4 at the free-throw line for a 55-49 lead.

According to Crisp, those free throws by Antonio and Kee were enough to secure the win for Navajo Prep, who went 2 for 6 from the free-throw line in the last 30 seconds of the game.

"I definitely wish we had a better free-throw percentage," Crisp said. "We made the ones that really counted at the end. You know, that's when the pressure really sits in at the end. You have to make them and the girls did. The girls fought. They never gave up."

As a result of their quarterfinal victory, the Lady Eagles advanced into the semifinals and meet No. 1 Texico Lady Wolverines today at 9:45 a.m. at the Santa Ana Star Center.

The Lady Wolverines advanced to the semifinals by defeating No. 8 Penasco, 52-37.

This will be the third meeting between Navajo Prep and Texico, with two wins in favor of Texico.

Both schools are familiar with each other. During the 2007 state tournament semifinals, Texico beat Navajo Prep, 42-30. In the 2008 title game, Texico won again, 55-45.

Asked how they could finally get a win over Texico, senior forward Heather Rodgers, who had 8 points on Tuesday, said, "I think it's going to take a lot of heart. We're going to have to dig deep to find ourselves and play hard as a team."

More specifically, Crisp said, it would take playing "Navajo Prep basketball" to beat Texico.

That means playing team defense and containing the twin sisters Jaylyn and Jordyn Cooper and Shaylee Anderson, who have been a nightmare for Navajo Prep in the past.

"We're definitely going to bring and play Navajo Prep basketball against them," Crisp said. "We do have to cut down on our turnovers. We can't have 20 turnovers against Texico or anybody.

"Fortunately, we won against Magdalena tonight with that many turnovers," she said. "Turnovers we definitely have to cut down on. We have to make every free throw. Anything free Texico gives us we have to take advantage of. Solid defense of course and good box outs will help win against Texico."

If the Lady Eagles execute according to their game plan, they should find themselves playing in The Pit Friday evening for another shot at a state championship.

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