Pure Domination

3A North teams to square off in Final Four round

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Window Rock Lady Scout Kristen Sanderson (11) leaps into the air as she begins celebrates their victory over the Sabino Lady Tigers Monday at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Window Rock plays the Page Lady Sand Devils on Friday at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association will crown a state champion from the 3A North Conference this year in girls’ basketball.

The question is which one?

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Ganado Lady Hornet Lujuana Louis (30) begins to celebrate with some of her teammates after they defeat the Chinle Lady Wildcats Monday evening at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Ganado will take on the Monument Valley Lady Mustangs on Friday in the girl’s 3A Arizona Interscholastic Association State High School basketball semifinal game at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, at 6 p.m.

On Monday, the 3A North had five teams make the quarterfinals of the 3A state playoffs with the Chinle girls being the only odd team out.

Ganado, Page, Window Rock and Monument Valley all advanced into the Final Four round with the latter two team pulling out a pair of tough wins at the Prescott Valley Event Center on Monday.

Window Rock, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, is scheduled to play No. 3 Page at 2:30 p.m. on Friday while top-seeded Ganado will square off with No. 12 seed Monument Valley later that day at 6 p.m. Both games will be played at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The survivors will have the right to play in the championship game, which is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.

Ganado coach Mike Bitsuie said having four teams from the 3A North speaks volume of how competitive the conference was this year.

“If you look at the power rankings we had five teams up there,” he said. “Even Tuba City was ranked No. 14 and they were very competitive. Our conference shined this year and it shows with four teams making the Final Four.”

In the first game played on Monday, Monument Valley unseated defending state champ Valley Christian in aphysical 46-45 win. With 8.9 seconds, the Mustangs got two clutch free throws from senior forward Lakeshia Begay for the go-ahead win.

“There was a lot of pressure on me,” Begay said. “It was just me and the goal. I’m just glad that I made both free throws.”

After losing to the Valley Christian the past three years in the state playoffs, the MV senior said Monday’s win was bittersweet.

“After all those years coming up short, it feels good to finally beat them,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without believing in ourselves.”

MV coach Jason Franklin said the community of Kayenta waited a long time for the Mustangs to make the Final Four round. The last time the Mustangs got this far in the tournament was nine years when they won the state championship in 2009.

“I am so happy for our school and community,” he said. “This is something for them to get excited about. We’re going back to Glendale and they’ll be there to support us. I’m excited the girls get to experience this.”

In the other close game, the Window Rock Lady Scouts had everyone on the edge of their seat by clinging on to a 54-52 win over No. 10 Tucson Sabino.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Monument Lady Mustang Tayla Nez (12) hugs her teammate Monday after they beat the Valley Christian Lady Trojans in Prescott Valley, Arizona, 46-45. The Lady Mustangs will play this Friday and will take on the No. 1 seed Ganado Lady Hornets at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Window Rock struggled to find any rhythm offensively as they trailed Sabino for much of the second half until they took the lead for good at 53-51 on a three-point play from Jana Solee with 25.1 seconds left in the game.

“We missed 14 shots but I kept telling my girls to keep going,” Window Rock coach Sharon Toadecheenie said. “Find that rhythm and find that spot on the glass. They did that in the second half.”

The first-year coach said they gave three different looks on the defensive end and they were more effective with their man-to-man defense.

“We confused them with our press,” she said.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
The Page Lady Sand Devils begin to celebrate after defeating the Sanford Lady Bulldogs Monday evening. Page won, 57-47, and will take on the Window Rock Lady Scouts at the Gila River Arena at 2:30 p.m., in Glendale, Arizona, this Friday.

In their half of the bracket, it took all but five minutes for Page to gain control over their match with Safford, the tournament’s No. 6 seed.

After leading 24-22 at the break, Page went on a 23 to 8 run in the third quarter to get the separation they needed to pull out a 57-47 victory.

“Our message at halftime was to attack more,” Page coach Ryan Whitehorse said in breaking down Safford’s zone defense.

“They packed that zone and we just needed to attack it more,” he said. “I felt like the girls did that and they executed.”

In the final game on Monday night, Ganado controlled the tempo from the get-go to post a 51-36 win over conference rival Chinle.

“We wanted to come out very aggressive tonight on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively,” Bitsuie said. “We wanted to jump on them and get a lead to see if they could respond and comeback on us because this was our fourth meeting playing them.”

After one quarter of play, Ganado did that as they led 18-8. The Hornets extended that lead to as much as 16 points in the second half as the deficit was too much for Chinle to overcome.

“I knew once we got ahead of them it would be hard for them to come back because of our pressure defense and our help defense,” he said. “That was our game plan and the girls did their very best to play team defense.”

Chinle coach Francine McCurtain said Ganado did a great job of handcuffing what they wanted to do offensively.

“There was no momentum and ball movement,” she said. “You hate for something like this to happen at the state level. When I look at my team I feel like we could have done way better.”


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Categories: Basketball

About 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