Shiprock credits teamwork for three-peat in district

By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Navajo Times

FORT WINGATE, N.M., March 6, 2014

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Shiprock Chieftain Justin Begay (20) leaps in between Wingate’s Kacee Begay (32) and Kenell Jones on Saturday night in Fort Wingate, N.M.

BOTTOM: Wingate Bear Kenell Jones (33) attempts a fade-away shot over Shiprock’s Darryle Nelson Jr., on Saturday night in Fort Wingate, N.M. Shiprock defeated Wingate, 85-58.

It took a dozen Chieftains to outdo 12 Bears.

Offensively, defensively, rebounding and even in coaching, the Shiprock Chieftains (19-10, 5-2) outdid the Wingate Bears (16-11, 6-1) in every aspect of the game of basketball as Shiprock defeated Wingate, 85-58, in front of a sold-out crowd for the New Mexico District 1-3A title on March 1.

It was a three-peat district title victory for the Chieftains that could only be done one way -- as a team.

"Execution, that's what it came down to. Team play," said Shiprock head coach Chester Atcitty, Jr.

The two teams met three other times prior to the district title game and shared wins and losses by one-to-four-point deficits. But Shiprock had other things in mind when they showed up at Fort Wingate for the title game. The game plan was to control the ball game early on and Shiprock did.

"That was definitely priority No.1- get the jump," Atcitty said. "(To see) if we can try to get the crowd out (of the game), but they still got loud and they brought their team right back in."
Shiprock limited Wingate to only 13 points in the first quarter and jumped ahead 30-13 to lead at the end of the first. The Chieftains knocked down five three-point baskets in the first quarter alone (they had a total of 10 for the game).

Wingate head coach Al Martinez said he was impressed.

"They hit more shots than we've seen them hit all year," he said. "They're the kind of team that when their 3s are falling, they're as good as anybody around."
And their 3s were falling. But so was just about anything they put up. They allowed Wingate a six-point run to start the second quarter, but Shiprock only missed two baskets the entire quarter and kept ahead of the Bears.

Wingate had a couple of small runs in the second quarter, one that included back to back 3-point baskets by Kenell Jones, and narrowed the margin to 10 points. Shiprock lead, 42-32, at the half.

Martinez said though Shiprock was still able to score, his team played a packed zone that worked for them. He said the true defense of the game was the diamond and one defense Shiprock played to keep Wingate's top scorer Kacee Begay from shooting.

"That's a case of being out-coached tonight. Coach Atcitty had his team prepared tonight, they ran a diamond and one, they understand that Kacee Begay is our first option," he said. "They kind of took that away, and so we struggled all night to really find ourselves."
Wingate managed another small run to start the third quarter and narrowed the score to trail by four, 42-38, with 4:30 left in the third.

Martinez said his team showed tenacity, which might have been the only thing that remained in tack the entire game.

"We didn't quit and that's the way we've been playing all year. We had our chance when it was down to five," he said.

Wingate nearly took control of the game as they trailed by three points, 43-40, with 3:30 left in the quarter but Shiprock wouldn't have it.

Shiprock's Hiram Gleason and Justin Begay knocked down one three-point basket each to pull the team back up, 51-43. Atcitty said taking control of a game in third quarter is what his team strives to do in every matchup.

"We want to take control of it, dominate the first three minutes and then finish strong the last two minutes," he said. "We did that."
Shiprock extended their lead 55-42 going into the final quarter. Shiprock continued to attack the basket on the in and outside and didn't look back.

"I hadn't seen them play this well all year. Our hat goes off to Shiprock, they came ready to play," Martinez said. "We cut it down to four and I was surprised that we let it get away so fast É we just seemed to be playing catch up, nothing was going right for us."
But everything went the way Shiprock hoped it would. Defense is a concept constantly preached by Atcitty and against Wingate, it might have been the best they've played all season.

Atcitty said he hopes it's something they can carry into the state tournament this weekend.

"If we can play better it will help us even more. It definitely worked on both sides of the court defensively and offensively for us tonight, " he said. "We definitely can improve more, we're always wanting to do better."
Shiprock's Justin Begay led the team with 32 points, Gleason had 25 and Darryle Nelson, Jr. added 11. Wingate's Bensin Perry led the team with 14.

Atcitty said that splitting 2-2 with Wingate isn't the most ideal situation but winning the title speaks volumes about his team.

"You take home the district championship, that's the goal. It wasn't easy by no means, all season long they worked their butt off for it, they deserve it," he said.

Gleason said the three-peat is even sweeter because they won as a team and everyone completed their task.

"Every one of us contributed really well," he said. "My role on the team was to make things happen on the floor. Make my teammates better, give them better shots and more open shots. Just doing the little things."
The Chieftains are seeded No. 10 in class 3A of the state tournament and will travel to No. 7 Sandia Prep to play in the first round on Saturday. Wingate got the No. 8 seed and will host No. 9 Portales at 2 p.m. in Fort Wingate.

Atcitty said he hoped for No. 8 seed but saw polls before the seeding came out saying the would end up 9 or 10.

Martinez said he was hoping for a No. 6 or No. 8 seed.

"We want to host another game at home and let our fans know we still have a lot of pride and we still think we can represent and make a run at state," he said.

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