Chinle slips past Window Rock for Coca Classic title
By Quentin Jodie
CHINLE, December 6, 2012
(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)
T his was probably not the most important game of the season.
But in terms of hype and history, the Chinle boys basketball team relished the moment when they unseated the Window Rock Scouts in the championship game at the 2012 Coca Classic on Saturday night.
Chinle earned a hard-fought 75-67 overtime win over the defending champions as more than 4,000 plus fans packed the Wildcat Den to help the home team to victory.
"This is really big," said Chinle guard Searle Tracy. "Going back to last season they beat us by one point. It's just a relief to finally get a W on them because they're a great team."
The big W, however, seemed to be jeopardy as the Scouts took a 54-46 lead when senior guard Darren Ashley made one of two free throws with 4:27 left in regulation.
But for the next two minutes, the Wildcats showed how good they can be this season as they forced Window Rock into taking bad shots. They also converted two turnovers into scores and tied the game at 54-54 on a trey by Wyatt Tuni.
Senior guard Kevin Yazzie scored five of his game-high 31 points during that span, which helped him earn the tournament's most valuable player award.
"This is all about the team," Yazzie said when asked about offensive exploits, which included 12 of 13 free throws.
"I couldn't score all those points by myself," he said. "It was a team effort. We were passing the ball, moving it and getting defensive stops."
Perhaps the most important stop happened in the game's final moments.
With the game tied at 60-all, the Scouts had one final crack at taking the last shot with 39.7 seconds. But in those final moments, Chinle's relentless defense complicated things as Window Rock turned over the ball with two seconds and failed to get a shot off.
"The kids defended well," Chinle coach Steve Troglia said. "That's been a priority with us and it has been for us since day one. You know we always tell them the better defensive team we can become the further we can go.
"We keep talking about getting stops everyday," he added. "Fortunately they got one and we forced overtime."
It didn't take long for the Wildcats to get things rolling as Yazzie hit a trey with all but nine seconds played in the overtime time period.
He later added a lay-up off a steal to make the score 66-60 in favor of Chinle with 2:07 remaining.
"That was huge because it just lifted everybody," Troglia said of Yazzie's trey. "It was just like they got a shot of adrenaline and I think our defensive intensity picked up a little bit more."
Troglia said he was somewhat surprised with Yazzie's production on the offensive end since he looks to pass first and then shoot.
"You know Kevin is a team player," he said. "But I think we were a little quiet tonight and he played a phenomenal game. He's worked so hard during the offseason."
Wyatt Tuni, a junior and transfer from Monument Valley High, added 12 points including six in the overtime period.
"The team was been working hard together," Tuni said. "Everyone was diving for the ball and we were just playing as a team."
As for the eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Tuni said they kept their composure and in their comeback they fed off the crowd.
"We all played with heart," Tuni said. "We all believed in each other to come back strong and, yeah, the crowd got us going and we just let it roll."
The Wildcats also got some big help from Jimiacan Ranger as he came off the bench and finished with 11 points.
"He's only a sophomore," Troglia said of Ranger. "He took the ball to the basket a couple of times. He's very quick and we're trying to get him some minutes. He did a great job tonight, but the thing about that is he was not supposed to dress out tonight.
"It's just that things happened and it worked out for him," Troglia said. "He got the uniform and he played huge for us."
Troglia felt that the intensity level was so high from the beginning that both teams came out a little flat.
"There was something about this game," he said. "I don't think anybody scored any points for the first three minutes of the game.
"You know it was like that," he added. "But this was a great game to coach in and great game for the kids to play in. Window Rock is such a phenomenal team."
Window Rock point guard Kyler Ashley finished with a team-high 14 points while Alex Destea added 11. Both players made the all-tournament team along with Chinle's Tracy and Tuni.
On Tuesday, the Scouts avenged that Saturday's loss with a 72-66 win.
Attempts to reach Window Rock coach Tom Shields were unsuccessful.
The Shadow Mountain Matadors made easy work of Monument Valley in the third-place game and won 82-41.
The Matadors scored the game's first seven points and never looked back and led 24-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Shadow Mountain added another 21 points in the second quarter for a 48-17 halftime cushion before outscoring the Mustangs 34-24 in the second half.
The Matadors had ten players score headed by Ben Ashby's 14 points. Chris Williams and Markus West added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
For Monument Valley, Brian Holiday finished with 16 and Urian Yazzie added 10.
"We have two guys that have varsity experience," Monument Valley coach Perry Francis said. "We're slowly getting experience game by game."
Given their youth, Francis said they'll go through some early growing pains, but he remains optimistic about the season.
"There were some positive things I saw tonight," he said. "When were being pressed, we broke it and we got some easy lay-ups. But when we reverted to one person we got in trouble.
"Overall I think we improved," he concluded. "My guys stuck it out."