Arizona Division III girls state basketball tournament

Lady Wildcats score ugly win over Safford, advances into next round

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

CHINLE, Feb. 20, 2014

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Chinle girls basketball coach Pete Butler viewed Wednesday's game as must-win situation.

So in essence, he wasn't looking for any style points.

Needless to say, he did not get any but after it was all said and done his team advanced into the second round of the Arizona Division III girls basketball tournament with a 51-38 win over Safford.

"We're moving on," Butler said. "We haven't play a game in over two weeks so we were sloppy tonight. I told my girls that we're going to come out sloppy and it's not going to look pretty."

In a game that was marred with turnovers and missed shots, his warning proved to be prophetic as both teams had a hard time converting mistakes into baskets.

"We have to convert on all those opportunities" Butler said. "I think we should have scored 25 more points off (Safford's) turnovers. We didn't capitalize on them and that's been our problem all year."

And as the game progressed, there was no indication it was going to get better. But a critical element to their game is defense.

After toying with a double-digit lead midway through the third quarter, the Chinle squad saw their once comfortable lead dwindle to six points on three occasions with the last one coming with 2:52 left in the game (44-38) after Safford Crystal Haase put in two of her team-best 16 points.

But in the waning moments, the Wildcats tighten its defense as Safford committed seven turnovers and missed eight shots as the game began to slip away.

"We started to clamp down on defense and we got some steals," Butler said. "That is what helped us…and during the season it's always been about defense. We change things here and change things there to mix it around and that has helped us win some crucial games."

As for those missed shots by Safford down the stretch, Chinle sophomore post Laurie Ryan made her presence known as she was credited with four block shots.

"When we got back into the locker room the girls jumped all over her," Butler said of Ryan. "She had like four consecutive blocks. She came around and you know you always want someone to step up and she did step up.

"She got some rebounds and block some of those shots," he said. "I think that frustrated Safford."

Offensively, the Wildcats were led by Arianna Yazzie and Lynniah Curley as the two seniors combined for 31 points with Yazzie scoring 17.

Yazzie scored in every quarter and by the half she had 12 points.

"She let the game come to her because she was stroking it out there," Butler said of Yazzie, who finished with three treys.

And while she didn't miss a beat, her team struggled on the offensive end. She attributed that to nerves, while adding that her team worked on conditioning during their two-week break.

"We've been working out on the track and running through the canyon," Yazzie said. "(Tuesday) was our first day we started shoot so we already knew we were going to play sloppy…we just had to fight this one out."

Like her coach, Yazzie said she's looking forward to playing No. 4 seed Window Rock on Saturday, which is scheduled to take place at the Ganado Pavilion at 6 p.m.

"We know what to expect from them," Butler said of Window Rock. "We have to prepare for them and we got to put some things together. We'll look at some film and try to break some things down and find some weaknesses."

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