Lady Chieftains earn No. 4 seed for state, embraces underdog role
By Nicole Baker
Special to the Times
SHIPROCK, N.M., March 7, 2013
(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)
T he Lady Chieftains could very well be this season's underdog.
Partially overlooked by the New Mexico Activities Association selection committee, the Shiprock girls basketball team was given the No. 4 seed by the committee.
That is in spite of the Lady Chieftains dominating New Mexico's District 1-3A and beating Thoreau, 64-44, for the district title last Friday night.
"They're ready," said Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson after their win. "The way they've ranked us so far, they say our strength of schedule isn't too strong. I can't wait to see how we finish."
The Lady Chieftains' bid for a state title begins Friday when they host No. 13 West Las Vegas in the opening round of the state tournament.
"I am already used to the environment," said Lady Chieftain Taylor Henderson, who was named the district's most valuable player. "I really want to play Hope Christian. I think it will be good game between us. I think both teams are looking forward to playing each other, and I just want to compete out there."
She knows exactly what it takes to win a state title, since she was part of the Kirtland Central team that took state last year.
"We have to work hard and play our game…and bring our momentum there. I can't wait for our next game. We just have to take each game step by step."
It will also be a final shot for the seven Lady Chieftain seniors Geovonia Harry, Geylonna Gruber, Samantha Natonabah, Codee Nahkai, Sasha Joe, Chiashonya Nelson and Rayette Soto.
"All of us played as a team and that's what it takes to win games," said Harry. "I want it so bad, the seniors are really forward to competing for the state championship. We all want to aim for that big title.
"We have to go through a lot of teams to get to the state championship," she added, noting that there will be a lot of good teams.
Although Thoreau's Alyssa Yazzie tallied seven points in the first quarter to keep Thoreau close, Harry and Joe both knocked down threes with less than a minute to go in the first to send Shiprock surging ahead, 16-9.
Shiprock never really looked back as Taylor Henderson and Ashley John combined for 15 points in the second quarter and helping to build a 37-25 cushion by halftime.
"I think we played excellent tonight," John said "I just love being on the floor with my team. It's a three-peat. It's amazing."
Of the state tournament, she said, "We're just going game by game to get to that state championship. We want to bring that state title back. It's going to take a lot of hard work, dedication and busting our butts off during practice…hopefully it pays off."
The Lady Chieftains extended their lead through the third quarter, wrapping up the period on a 10-0 run and with a 51-32 lead.
Taylor Henderson scored six more points in the fourth en route to a game-high 22 points, while John finished with 10 points.
Having scored nine points in the fourth quarter, Thoreau junior Amber Begay led the Lady Hawks with 15 points, with Yazzie adding 10.
"We hope to get to the Pit," Begay said adding that the Lady Hawks had to wait until seedings for the state championship were released Sunday. "That's the Thoreau Lady Hawks goal this year."
Thoreau was given the No. 10 seed and will face No. 7 Pojaque in the opening round, while the Wingate Lady Bears squeaked in as the No. 16 seed and will be at No. 1 Hope Christian.
Other pairings include: No. 2 Santa Fe Indian hosting No. 15 Ruidoso and No. 3 Portales will host No. 14 St. Michael's.