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Shiprock s Courtney Steele (31) goes up for a shot during the championship game of the Lady Bronco Invite on Saturday in Kirtland.
Shiprock wasted no time establishing itself as a dominant team in Kirtland on Saturday night.
The Lady Chieftains (12-2) jumped all over the Lady Broncos (4-10) early in the first quarter, taking a 13-1 lead in the first quarter before building a 30-point lead before halftime.
Shiprock was able to play numerous reserves in the second half as it cruised to a 72-33 win in the championship game of the Lady Bronco Invite.
“Shiprock hasn’t won against Kirtland in Kirtland the last few years. Not a regular game or tournament,” said Shiprock first-year head coach Larenson Henderson, who was an assistant coach for the Lady Broncos the last two seasons. “Winning this tournament here is big for us. All of my bosses were here tonight, and we knew we wanted to come out and get it done.”
Kirtland Central simply couldn’t handle the aggressive pressure defense of Shiprock.
“They came out and pressed us hard right off the bat, and we didn’t handle it well,” said Kirtland Central head coach Kevin Holman. “After they went up 13-1, it just snowballed from there. I think it was all summarized when Taylor Henderson hit a 3-pointer right in front of our bench as the buzzer went off in the half. They just whipped us.”
Holman had hoped his team could keep the game close and have a chance in the fourth quarter, making it his former assistant’s goal to take a big lead early.
“I wanted to hurry up and jump on Kirtland and see if we could cut any momentum they wanted to get,” Larenson Henderson said. “We didn’t want there to be a chance for it to be close.”
Taylor Henderson scored a game-high 22 points for Shiprock before being named the tournament’s MVP.
Taylor Billey was Kirtland Central’s all-tournament player.
Ashley John had another big game for the Lady Chiefs with 13 points. Geovonia Harry also had 10.
Courtney Steele, who named to the all-tournament team, was once again a force inside for Shiprock with blocked shots and solid defensive rebounding.
“That is something we have missed, and we are glad she is able to get in that mix for us,” Larenson Henderson said. “Kirtland was timid about trying to come inside on her.”
Larenson Henderson said the team’s goal is to take the court against every opponent with the mentality that it can win big like it did Saturday.
“I don’t want us to sound cocky, but we have to be confident enough to go into every game and know we are the better team,” he said. “We are stressing confidence to our girls. We know if we play our style of game, the only thing that can beat us is ourselves.”
Shiprock will get a chance to show that confidence next Friday at home against a quality Miyamura team.
Kirtland Central will get the first crack at Miyamura this Tuesday before challenging games against Monument Valley, Ariz., on Thursday and Santa Fe Indian School on Friday.
“Right now, our focus has to be on district. We want to prepare each game and in practice for Piedra Vista, Farmington and Aztec,” Holman said. “For us to get into the state tournament and have a chance at repeating as state champs, we have to win the district.”