A sluggish third quarter by the No. 4 Lady Chieftains gave Tuba City, Ariz., some hope going into the fourth quarter, but Shiprock finished strong in the fourth quarter to secure a 57-43 home win at the Chieftain Pit, moving the team to an impressive 13-2 record this season.
One of those two losses came to Tuba City's rival Window Rock on Jan. 8. After that 11-point road loss, Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson hoped to show improvement against Tuba City.
"It was a nice win. Last week, Tuba City lost to Window Rock by one. The one thing we wanted to do was prove we can play, too," Henderson said.
Henderson's plan was to slow down the tempo against a Tuba City team he knows likes to run.
"All of the Arizona teams run. We have that side of knowing how to run, too, but we wanted to slow the game down," he said. "It was tough for our girls, but they went out and played good defense and cut off Tuba City's shots. We put all the energy we put into full-fourt pressing inside the 3-point line. We wanted to shrink the court down and hustle around inside the 3-point line with our zone defense and make it hard on them. We played very good basketball."
Shiprock went to work in the paint in the first quarter, with Courtney Steele scoring six of her team-high 12 points in the first eight minutes.
The Lady Chiefs led Tuba City 13-8 after the first quarter before doing damage in the second, outscoring the Warriors 18-9.
Shiprock saw scoring from several players before Geovonia Harry caught fire at the end of the first half, scoring six of her eight points in the final minute before the break.
But the Lady Chiefs struggled in the third quarter, scoring just nine points to Tuba City's 12. However, Shiprock did enough in the fourth quarter to hang on to the win.
Tuba City (13-6) did get within six points of Shiprock at 47-41 with only a couple of minutes remaining, but Geovonia Harry hit a basket before Shania Harry, who scored 11 points in the game, hit two shots in a row from the field late in the game to give Shiprock a 6-0 run that put Tuba City away for good.
"The one thing I like about the girls is we find ways to score and we don't get rattled," Henderson said. "The girls know what they have to do to keep the games close when we are behind and they know what to do to put it away when we are up."
Tuba City's Shinya Henry had a productive night, scoring 11 points while Tate Tsingine scored a game-high 16.
The Warriors brought plenty of fans with them to the Chieftain Pit, and Henderson was once again thrilled with the support the Lady Chiefs received.
"The energy from our fans is so good. Having a packed house like that gives the team a lot of energy," he said. "We are starting to make enough noise for the fans to all start coming out and support us. After our overtime game with Miyamura and some of the other wins we have had, people are starting to see we have a great chance this year. They are coming out to see it."
Shiprock will continue a string of games against Arizona teams next week.
The Lady Chiefs host Page Tuesday before traveling to Monument Valley Thursday.
Shiprock begins its District 1-3A schedule Friday at home against Thoreau before traveling to play Tuba City again next Saturday.
Though the four-game week and long travel days appear daunting, Henderson believes the Lady Chiefs have trained all season to handle those situations, and he isn't worried about a letdown in the first district game with it being sandwiched between the Arizona road trip.
"The one thing we do is exercise hard in practice. Our girls can run," he said. "The thing I like about all the tournaments we have played already is they are three-day tournaments. The girls are adjusted to playing three games in three days. I also know my bench players can step up when we need them to if girls get tired. We are going to be good."