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Lady Sand Devils return to Final Four

Lady Sand Devils return to Final Four

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – One of Arizona’s perennial girls basketball powerhouse is back in familiar territory.

On Monday the top-seeded Page Lady Sand Devils (21-5) reached the 3A Final Four round for the first time under third-year coach Celeste “Boka” Claw.

The top-seeded Page team advanced with a 61-25 win over No. 24 American Leadership Academy-West Foothills (15-12) at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

“We’ve definitely been itching to get back,” Claw said. “We’re just trying to carry over the legacy of Ryan Whitehorse, Justin Smith, Aaron Anderson, Jim Atkins and Mike Bill. All those great coaches set the tone for the Sand Devil program and the community.

“It means a lot to be back,” she added. “I couldn’t have done it without all of my fabulous coaching staff. They have helped me build back the program the way we’ve always wanted to where defense wins championships.”

Lady Sand Devils return to Final Four

Navajo Times | Quentin Jodie
Page Lady Sand Devil Alyssa Harris dribbles the ball in transition against the AIA-West Foothills Guardians on Monday in Prescott Valley, Ariz.

Prior to Claw taking over the program, Page won the 2021 state title under Whitehorse during the shortened Covid season. Since then the Sand Devils have reached the second round of the playoffs before bowing out each of the past two seasons.

“I’m super excited,” Page senior post Sofia Cambridge said. “I’ve always wanted to be in the semis, and I’ve always wanted to win a state championship so getting past the second round and winning today’s quarterfinals is great.”

Page senior transfer Alyssa Harris was equally pleased with winning Monday’s game as the Sand Devils will play Chinle at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

“I’m really excited and I’m really happy for my teammates,” said Harris, who played previously at Flagstaff High for two seasons. “A lot of my teammates didn’t get to experience this their freshman, sophomore and junior years, so I’m definitely happy that we get to play in the semifinals, but our job is not done.”

In Monday’s contest the Sand Devils led from the get-go. They sprinted ahead of ALA-West Foothills, scoring the contest’s first 11 points. Page guard LeLaura Yazzie hit a pair threes in that early surge as she finished with eight total points.

ALA-West Foothills finally got going when sophomore guard Izabella Juarez scored five straight in the middle of the quarter, as her three-pointer cut Page’s lead down to 11-5 with 4:15 left.

After that brief run by ALA-West Foothills, the Sand Devils responded in a big way. Harris and Cambridge combined for 38 points, with the latter leading the way with 20 markers.

“Those two are my most consistent players when it comes to our offense,” the Page coach said. “They lead the team in scoring, but I also have some players that can go off. It was LeLaura Yazzie’s night and the other night it was Taylor Franklin.”

Defensively, the Sand Devils held Juarez to 14 points, which is eight below her average. The ALA-West Foothills guard didn’t get much help from her teammates as just three others scored for the 24th-seeded Guardians.

“She’s a fantastic player,” the Page coach said of Juarez. “Props to her; she had a great season helping her team to get this far in the playoffs. We expected her to score 15-plus because she’s a great shooter, but I thought we did a good job preventing her teammates from scoring.”

Claw credited players like Aubrey Martinez, Jade Reid and Lashundean Henry for their work on the defensive end.

“We just have a lot of players that are so gritty,” she said. “Some of them don’t look to score like Aubrey. She’s one of our defensive players and she’ll go rebound and get after those boards, so she’s like our Dennis Rodman.

“And we have Jade and Lashundean who are our defensive stoppers,” she added.

Page will now focus on Chinle as the 13th-seeded Lady Wildcats needed an overtime session to outlast No. 5 Snowflake with a 62-55 win.

“They may have had a rough season, but Chinle always plays well during the playoffs,” Claw said while adding that Chinle coach Francine McCurtain really knows how to develop her team in the postseason.

“She has them playing hard for her and that’s incredible to see,” Claw said. “I expect a really good game with them.”


About The Author

Quentin Jodie

Quentin Jodie is the Sports Editor for the Navajo Times. He started working for the Navajo Times in February 2010 and was promoted to the Sports Editor position at the end of summer in 2012. Previously, he wrote for the Gallup Independent. Reach him at qjodie@navajotimes.com

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