SHIPROCK — The Shiprock boys basketball team finished a solid week after playing four games in a five-day stretch.
The Chieftains earned three wins during the stretch against local rivals. The first came against Aztec on Tuesday, then they defeated Farmington and Piedra Vista at the Scorpions' Marv Sanders Invitational.
Shiprock won the games by an average 17.6 points, and senior point guard Hiram Gleason's play was an important reason why the Chieftains are off to a solid start this year.
"With his experience, especially playing AAU ball and getting his name out there, his leadership means a lot," said Shiprock head coach Chester H. Atcitty Jr. "We can't compare ourselves to past years. We have to stick together and encourage one another and that's where he stands out."
Being more vocal on the court is one area where Gleason's leadership has improved this season. "I always give them time at the end of practice if they have anything to say to the team," Atcitty said. "He told his teammates 'a quiet gym is a losing gym' and that's been our motto. To be as vocal as possible and we still have the tendency to be quiet, but we're working on it."
Gleason averaged 14 points per game in the three wins, and used his attacking style to get to the hoop, draw fouls and set teammates up for easy baskets.
"If we start to gel as a team, we'll be all right," he said. "Slowly, things are coming together."
Gleason's ability to penetrate defenses has caused problems for his opponents early this season. He has the court vision to help set up his teammates and his ability to get to the free-throw line is a real asset for Shiprock.
"That's when I'm at my best you could say," Gleason said. "When I drive, it gets other people open and makes them better. It makes things happen on the floor."
During the Marv Sanders Invitational, Gleason made 91.7 percent of his shots from the charity stripe, hitting 22-of-24 in the tournament.
Gleason said getting to the free-throw line helps to get him in rhythm.
"Free throws win games," Gleason said. "It helps with our form for shots we use in the games."
The team still has room to grow, said Atcitty, but they like the path they're on early in the season.
"We've just been emphasizing we can all make our teammates better," he said. "Share the ball, communicate with each other, and encouraging one another has been the focus."
After making the state semifinals last season, Gleason is hopeful this team can duplicate that run in the tournament this year.
"We have big expectations. We just have to take the season one game at a time," he said. "We'll get to our goal."