ALBUQUERQUE — The Lady Chieftains season came to a heartbreaking conclusion in the 3A semifinals.
No. 4 Shiprock fell to No. 1 Hope Christian 65-55 on Thursday morning at The Pit in Albuquerque.
The Lady Chiefs trailed the Huskies 53-40 with just under six minutes to play, but fought back with a 15-4 run to cut Hope Christian's lead to 57-55 with just over two minutes left.
Shiprock (24-4) appeared to have tied the game, but a basket by Taylor Henderson was waved off by the referee, who called the Lady Chiefs' guard for a charging foul.
"I kept waiting
for that run. I knew it was coming," said Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson. "The referees didn't call a charge the whole game until right there. That's one thing I don't understand."
That provided the Huskies with the momentum needed to pull out a victory, said Hope Christian head coach Terry Heiser.
"It was a huge momentum changer and helped us go on a run," Heiser said.
The Lady Chiefs didn't score for the remainder of the contest as the Huskies closed the game on an 8-0 run to advance to the state title game.
"We all wanted it. We really did," said Shiprock junior Ashley John as she tried to fight back tears. "We tried our best. We went out there and cut it to two — came up short. We're going to come back and win the state title. That's what we plan to do."
Shiprock started the game by taking a 12-5 lead in the first quarter, but Hope Christian (27-3) replied with an 8-0 run, and the Huskies ended the first quarter with a 19-14 lead.
The Lady Chiefs continued to battle the top-ranked 3A team throughout the second quarter, but the Huskies extended their advantage to 35-27 heading into halftime.
Hope Christian's lead ballooned into double figures for most of the third quarter, and the Huskies took a 51-38 lead into the final quarter.
The Lady Chiefs mounted a comeback attempt in the fourth, but were never able to regain the lead after their early first quarter advantage.
John led the Lady Chiefs with 16 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 3:08 to play in the fourth.
Courtney Steele scored 10 points for Shiprock while Geovonia Harry added nine and Shania Harry added eight in the loss.
Senior Marissa Perry scored 18 points to lead the Huskies.
Senior Robyn Walker added 17 points and nine rebounds in the win for Hope Christian.
The Huskies controlled the rebounding department for most of the game, finishing with a 42-36 advantage. Hope Christian took advantage of 31 free-throw attempts, making 20, while Shiprock hit 11-of-19 from the free-throw line.
"We wanted to get to the free-throw line as much as we could," Heiser said. "We realized we had to play more aggressive offensively."
Turnovers hindered both teams throughout the game with the Huskies committing 25 and Shiprock committing 23.
"I told the girls this year that if anybody beats us, it'll be because we hurt ourselves," Larenson Henderson said. "We just turned the ball over and missed a lot of chippies we should have made. When you just don't make those things in the tournament, other teams capitalize on it. We just had a bad game, and it came at a bad time."
Hope Christian will play No. 6 Lovington after its upset of No. 2 Santa Fe Indian 38-33 at The Pit on Friday for the title.
Joshua Perry may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.