Top-seeded Prep faces off against Thoreau tonight
After completing the regular season at 11-0, the Navajo Prep girls’ basketball team got the nod as the favorite to win the 3A bracket for this year’s state tournament.
The top-seeded Lady Eagles are looking to defend their state titles as they open the playoffs with district foe Thoreau at 6 p.m. tonight.
“We know that we have a big target on our back and it’s up to us to keep dodging those targets,” Navajo Prep girls basketball coach Rainy Crisp said. “We need to continue to do well and play hard and win games.”
In addition to those two squads, six area teams made the state field with Gallup and Kirtland Central earning bids in Class 4A while the 3A bracket has three teams from District 1-3A, which also includes Tohatchi.
The 2A bracket has one team in the field with Rehoboth playing at top seed Pecos at 6 p.m. while the 1A bracket has No. 7 Ramah playing No. 2 Fort Sumner at Moriarty High School at 3 p.m. Meanwhile No. 4 Alamo Navajo squares up with No. 5 Animas at Hot Springs High School at 4 p.m.
All the brackets will have eight teams with the 1A, 2A and 3A teams opening their first round playoffs today and on Tuesday the 4A and 5A teams will start their state tournament with first round action.
“Everybody has the same goal going into the state tournament and that’s to bring home the blue trophy,” Crisp said. “It’s going to come down to who comes mentally prepared and, you know, who limits their mistakes.”
The longtime Navajo Prep coach said opening up with Thoreau is not what she wanted, having played the Hawks two times during this shortened season.
“It’s really tough to beat a team three times,” she said. “We know each other’s game, and we know each other’s strengths and our weaknesses. We know what worked for them so it’s all about making those adjustments.”
On the plus side, Crisp said having three teams from the district make state is quite remarkable, considering there were only eight slots available.
“It really speaks highly of our district,” she said.
Tohatchi coach Tanisha Bitsoi concurred while stating that a lot of good teams were left out of this year’s field.
“We’re really happy that we got in,” she said. “And with three teams in our district it says a lot about how competitive we are on this side of the state.”
The Cougars (8-4) earned the No. 7 seed and they will play at No. 2 West Las Vegas at a neutral site, Bernalillo High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“We have a really short time to prepare,” Bitsoi said of tonight’s game. “This whole year has been challenging but these kids love to play. I feel that we’ve progressed, and we’ll go out there and we’ll play hard.”
On Tuesday, Gallup will entertain Highland in a No. 4-5 matchup at 4 p.m.
“I think we’re sitting in a good spot, with our matchups and whatnot,” Gallup coach Todd McBroom said.
Nonetheless, he feels his team got penalized this shortened season, having played only one nondistrict game.
“We weren’t able to meet some of the criteria as far as beating other district champs,” he said. “I feel that kind of dropped us a little bit in the rating and it is what it is.”
McBroom said Highland is a solid ball club that features three players at 6-1 and above.
“They move well and they can play,” he said. “They’re a good ball team and they got probably one of the quickest guards in the state with Denise Ryan, so we have our hands full. We have to work hard to beat them on Tuesday.”
Following the girls’ game, the Gallup boys will host No. 6 Bernalillo at 7 p.m. and McBroom said the gym will be cleared before they allow fans for the boys’ game.
District runner-up Kirtland Central made the field as one of two at-large teams.
“We’re excited to be one of the fortunate teams to make the tournament this year with it being tough to get in,” KC coach Devon Manning said. “We’re just playing to play good basketball at the right time and we’re ready to rock and roll.”
The Broncos are scheduled to play No. 3 seed Bernalillo at 6 p.m. and also on Tuesday.
“Bernalillo has a very good guard,” Manning said of junior Juliana Aragon. “She handles the ball well and she finds her teammates well. She’s a bigtime scorer, so we got our hands full with her and that team.”
Manning said the Lady Spartans are well coached and if they want to advance they need to bring their ‘A’ game.
“It’s always hard to beat somebody else in their gym,” he said. We know that we’re in for a long night, and we’re just hoping that we can play up to our abilities.”