ALBUQUERQUE — For the second time in as many days, the Shiprock dream of a state championship was dashed by Hope Christian.
The No. 1 Huskies defeated the No. 4 Chieftains 67-49 in the 3A boys state semifinal on Friday at The Pit in Albuquerque.
Shiprock came out with a strong defensive effort, opening up a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"We had a great game plan to start off with," said Shiprock head coach Chester H. Atcitty Jr. "We executed well with our zone. We had our opportunities. We just didn't convert."
The Chieftains (24-6) led by as many as six points in the second quarter, but the Huskies (19-11) used a 9-0 run in the middle of the quarter to open up a 24-18 lead.
Hope Christian maintained the advantage for the rest of the half, taking a 28-23 lead into halftime.
"These games, your kids are nervous, and we came out tight," said Hope Christian head coach Jim Murphy. "I think we stepped up on defense. Give credit to Shiprock. They played great but I'm proud of my team so far."
Shiprock was unable to mount a comeback in the second half as the Huskies kept the lead for the remainder of the game.
Patdric Toehe, playing in his final game for the Chieftains, was the lone Shiprock player in double figures, scoring 18 points, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
"I just came out and thought 'don't give up.' That's what coach tells us," Toehe said. "Going out there with four fouls in the third quarter, I just tried to keep my hands to myself and not reach in. I do anything to help my team. I was happy to play in The Pit in the state tournament, finally."
Toehe battled foul trouble most of the game as he battled in the paint with Hope Christian's 6-foot-5 post player Austen Drake.
"I just tried to crash the glass a little bit, and everything kind of bounced my way," Drake said.
Drake made the most of his size advantage against the smaller Shiprock squad, scoring 18 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds.
"We got some touches to Austen on the inside game, and that opened some things up for us," Murphy said.
Hope Christian's ability to control the rebounding department was a major factor in the Huskies' win with Shiprock getting outrebounded 44-29.
"We let them penetrate and then didn't box out," Atcitty said. "We tried to adjust and rotate, but that was tough."
The Huskies' superior height also gave the Chieftains trouble on the offensive end.
Shiprock shot just 33 percent from the field and had many layups blocked or altered by the lengthy Hope Christian defenders.
"One of the things I stressed to the kids was that a short jumper becomes a high-pressure shot," Atcitty said. "We don't realize until we're there. When you got an opportunity, you have to make it."
Dominique Todacheenie hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored nine points for Shiprock, and Kevin Aspaas added seven points and seven rebounds in the loss.
Atcitty was proud of the contributions of his seniors and the improvements he saw in his squad throughout the season.
"We're probably better than we were last year even though the record may not reflect it," Atcitty said. "We wanted to get better defensively, and it was a matter of focusing on what we can do and how much better we can get. People wrote us off and said this team wasn't going anywhere, but we focused on what we had to do — continue to work on defense, continue to work on offense."
Huskies' guard Tommy Riley scored 12 points and Zac Garcia chipped in 11 more in the Hope Christian victory.
Hope Christian moved on to the 3A title game where the Huskies will face No. 2 St. Michael's for the state championship.
Joshua Perry may be reached at email@example.com or 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.