Monument Valley Lady Cougars eyeing state playoffs

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah, January 24, 2013

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

Monument Valley Lady Cougar Cassidy Augustine (10) drives the ball against Green River defender Michaela Hughes (15) on Friday night. The Monument Valley Lady Cougars defeated the Lady Pirates, 63-61.

F rom a strength standpoint the Monument Valley Lady Cougars are very deep.

And from a shooting standpoint, they are better than last year.

But when it comes to how they stack up against Utah's best in Class 1A, Monument Valley coach Jack Seltzer wasted little time to give any insight.

"Right now I wouldn't want to venture a guess to see how we are sitting in the state because we lost two games early in the season to opponents in regions that we need to get past," he said. "There are so many regions and they are all over the place."

Besides, Seltzer said the rankings change almost every night when a game is played, so to conjure up a guess would be irrelevant.

Still he did acknowledge that his team is blessed with talent, especially with backcourt players.

"There is no question that the guards are very strong," Seltzer said.

In fact, he has six such players that he depends on.

One of those guards is Heida Nelson, a transfer student from a nearby school that also goes by Monument Valley.

So far Nelson is making an impact after playing on the JV squad for the Lady Mustangs in Arizona last year.

"It's different," she said. "I played with a lot of all-stars. I traveled (to places) like Phoenix and everywhere. And playing here, it's a different angle."

Still she says the game is still intense and their success is dependent on a number of factors, such as playing together as a team.

And since they are short, compared to most teams, Nelson said they have become so versatile that their coach can play them at any position.

"These guards are strong players," Seltzer said. "We have another forward that can be pretty strong, but I can move them around."

The MV coach said he can go seven deep, but he also has "a bunch subs that are not as strong, but they are respectable.

"In most cases they can do the job," he said.

Those subs were instrumental in Friday's much needed win against rival Green River as this contest came down to attrition.

In a foul-infested game, both teams lost key players down the stretch. In the fourth quarter alone they combined for 15 fouls as the Cougars came out top with a 63-61 win.

"It was pretty scary, especially when I fouled out," junior guard Jandra Nelson said. "I couldn't do anything about it, but I am glad we survived."

She finished the game with 11 points while Heida Nelson (no relation) put in a game-high 24 points to the Cougars.

Senior guard Cassidy Augustine added 13 points.

"This was a nail-biter," Monument Valley assistant coach Nanette Crank said. "Our girls are not very tall, but we did a good job of using our speed tonight."

In the first half, that was not the case, according to Seltzer.

"I keep stats, so I can see what's going on," he said. In the first half "we were shooting too many threes on the outside and we were not going inside enough."

And when they did go inside, the Cougars put themselves at the line 18 times and made 12 free throws.

"We got them into foul trouble," Seltzer said of the Pirates. "We took advantage of that and it worked very well."

Last season, the Cougars split the regular season with Green River and they ended up in first place with a coin flip.

Seltzer said Friday's win was very significant since they don't want this year's regional race to come to that.

"This is the team that we needed to beat at home," Seltzer said. "We have to beat them at their place next week and you know road game are really hard to win. We don't play real well on the road.

"I mean we play respectable, but there are nights when it's like we are not in the gym," he added. "The road games are the ones that I am worried about."

On Saturday night, the Cougars helped eased his anxiety by defeating Pinnacle by a 72-36 count to push its league record to 6-0 and 11-3 overall.

"We are kind of like an anomaly," he said. "We are not supposed to be like this, so everyone is scouting us to see what we are doing."

Green River coach Greg Parsons is one of those coaches that had shown in interest in the MV squad.

"I am really impressed with the Monument Valley team," Parsons said. "They play very hard. I love watching them play and they never give up."

The Green River coach said that he's looking forward to a rematch next week and he hopes his team will learn from their mistakes.

"We had our chances, but we missed three, four layups at crucial times," Parsons said. "As big a slugfest as it was, I thought we had our chances."

Before they think about that trip to Green Valley, they have Monticello and Whitehorse to consider even though they control their own destiny with a perfect record in league play.

"We're expecting those games to be tough," Augustine said. "I just hope we can keep this up and make it back to state."

Last year the Cougars went 1-2 and were eliminated in the consolation round of the state tournament.

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