SHIPROCK — Shiprock fans in the Chieftain Pit could breathe a sigh of relief when Jake Armijo’s game-tying 3-point attempt crashed off the side of the rim as the Shiprock boys’ basketball team knocked off Piedra Vista 63-60 on Tuesday night.
“It felt really off, it looked like it might bank in at one point,” Armijo said of his missed jumper, which came with just five seconds to play. “I was just trying to get the foul. It just didn’t go my way.”
Shiprock was expecting a PV run in the second half after leading big early, and head coach Chester H. Atcitty Jr. was just happy his team survived it.
“We knew they could make a comeback,” Atcitty said. “They are a very similar style to us. They were relentless. We didn’t write them off. We thought the first three minutes of the half would dictate the rest of the game, and, sure enough, we couldn’t get it going.”
The Panthers fought back from a 21-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 59 with just a minute to play when Armijo made a 3-point shot.
Shiprock quickly pushed the lead back to three points when guard Justin Begay made a layup and drew a foul.
Begay made the ensuing free throw on his way to a game-high 21 points.
The Shiprock junior said his team felt lucky to get out of the game with a victory.
“They are a great team and battled back,” said Begay, who went 7-for-12 from the field. “We’re fortunate to get the win.”
PV’s Troy Dixon made one of two from the free-throw line to cut Shiprock lead to two with 28 seconds to play.
Begay had a chance to ice the game with just over 10 seconds left, but missed the second of two free throws.
Shiprock survived, though, as Armijo’s desperation 3-pointer from the right wing hit off the right side of the rim.
The PV senior guard finished with 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field, including 4-for-10 from 3-point range.
The Chieftains opened the game by hitting their first nine shots from the field as they built a 25-8 first-quarter lead.
“We didn’t play good defense, but anytime you come here with all their fans, you know they’re going to play well,” said PV head coach Adam Huff. “They just shot lights out. Everything was going for them, but we didn’t do a good job defensively and gave them a lot of open shots.”
Shiprock shot 11-for-14 from the field in the opening quarter but cooled off after the hot start, making just 15-of-44 over the final three quarters.
“Basketball is a game of runs. We had that big run in the first half and were hoping to have another run in the second half,” Begay said.
The 3-point shot was key to the Panther comeback in the second half.
PV went 7-for-14 from beyond the arc in the final two quarters after shooting 0-for-5 in the first half.
Neither team shot the ball well from the free-throw line with Shiprock making 6-of-12 and PV hitting 9-for-16.
Kevin Aspaas scored 13 for the Chieftains, all in the first half.
Shiprock will play Whitehorse at home on Thursday.
PV is back home on Thursday against Bayfield, Colo.