Arizona boys basketball

Tuba City takes on Chinle for section's top seed

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Jan. 24, 2014

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There will be no shortage of enthusiasm when Tuba City and Chinle lock horns tonight.

The two powers are renewing their rivalry with the section's top seed on the line at the Wildcat Den in Chinle as both teams enter the highly anticipated contest with identical 4-0 records in sectional play.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. after the girl's game.

"That is the big game on our schedule," Tuba City coach Ryan Brown told the Navajo Times after taking care of Window Rock on Saturday.

Last December, the Tuba City Warriors stunned Chinle in the finals of the 3A North Tournament of Champions with a come-from-behind 64-60 win.

Tuba City junior Christian Begody helped the No. 8 Warriors rally from a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter that fueled that comeback.

The junior guard scored 24 points with 17 coming in the last 9.5 minutes in that game, which included a pair of threes.

Afterward Chinle coach Charles Gover characterized that setback as a game that got away as Tuba City outscored the Wildcats 31 to 7 when Begody took over.

"We let them hit some threes when we shouldn't have," Gover said. "They have some good shooters but we have to be able to defend a lot better and make better decisions."

Since that loss, the Wildcats have won seven straight games, including Tuesday's 78-62 victory over Monument Valley. That winning streak, coupled with last December's non-tournament wins, have helped Chinle to a No. 2 seeding in the latest power rankings with an 11-0 record.

Senior guard Kevin Yazzie and senior forward Wyatt Tuni are the biggest reasons why Chinle is ranked atop the state's power rankings.

Tuba City is six slots back, having lost to Page, 58-53, in a freedom game on Dec. 17. The Warriors avenged that loss with a 51-43 win over the Sand Devils on Jan. 17 in a sectional game.

"That game haunted us for awhile," Brown said of their earlier loss to Page. "We got some closure to that game a couple of nights ago when we beat them at our place."

"We used that lost as our motivation to play better," Begody added. "We had some breakdowns in that game but we've been working hard on improving our bench and with our inside game."

In addition to Begody, Tuba City has junior sharpshooter Tristan Begay and senior Alonzo Thompson as reliable threats to give Chinle a run for their money.

"We're all playing with a lot of confidence," Thompson said. "We're playing as a team and we're winning. We just need to continue to keep do that and keep working hard."

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