SHIPROCK — With the Shiprock boys basketball team missing its top scorer Justin Begay, Hiram Gleason took over.
Gleason scored 33 points as the Chieftains opened up a lead early against Taos and held off a late comeback attempt in a 67-63 win on Friday night at the Chieftain Pit.
"I just had to do the little things and get everybody to play as a team," said Gleason, who hit 9-of-20 from the field and 12-of-14 at the free-throw line. "I had to make things happen and get us to work as a team. We got the win from there. It's a big win."
Begay missed the game for Shiprock with a nagging hip injury, Chieftains' head coach Chester H. Atcitty Jr. said.
Atcitty was happy to his senior point guard Gleason take on the challenge with Begay sidelined.
"He did a heck of a job leading us and carrying the load," Atcitty said. "That's what we needed. Everybody's got to play together."
Free throws played a key role in the game with No. 6 Chieftains (8-3) hitting 26-of-31 while No. 4 Taos (7-2) made just 17-of-36.
"Free throws win games," Gleason said. "It might have just been an off night for them."
After leading 9-8 at the end of the first quarter, the Chieftains' defense held Taos to 3-of-13 shooting in the second to take a 24-15 advantage into the halftime break.
The Shiprock lead grew to 43-29 after three quarters.
"We worked hard defensively and offensively," Atcitty said. "We just had to stay focused."
Taos made a run in the fourth, but never cut the deficit to less than four points.
"I give a lot of respect out to Taos," Atcitty said. "They're going to be one heck of a team."
Darryle Nelson scored 15 points in the win for Shiprock.
Chris Nalls led Taos with 12 points in the loss.
Shiprock will finish out the tournament today with Aztec at 7 p.m., and Taos will face Bloomfield at 5:30 p.m.
"It's another tough ball game," Atcitty said. "We got a big win tonight, but we've got to be ready for another big game."
In the first game of the evening, Aztec used a 13-0 run during a seven-minute span in the first half to open up a lead as the Tigers defeated Bloomfield 57-31.
Eli King led a balanced Tigers' offense with 13 points. Ryneal Lewis-Adams and Alvin Harvey also each added 11 in the Aztec win.
"I think with the team we have, we're young and we're winning some and losing some," King said. "But coach put in a new offense, and we've been attacking and finding the chemistry we need."
The Tigers' ability to get to the rim opened up their 3-point shooters, allowing Aztec to hit 9-of-22 from beyond the arc.
Bloomfield struggled with turnovers throughout the game, committing 21 in the loss and at the free-throw line, hitting just 6-of-18.
"If we come with the same mentality and linger on this loss tomorrow, then we'll get the same result," said Bloomfield head coach Devon Manning. "We just had no guts, no pride, and we were OK with losing to Shiprock last night by eight."
Bloomfield (2-6) hung tight with Aztec most of the first quarter before the Tigers (4-6) scored the final five points to push their lead to 15-9.
Aztec never let go of the lead the rest of the way as they dominated the final three quarters against the Bobcats.
"They out toughed us tonight," Manning said of Aztec. "We had a chance at the beginning to keep it closed, but defensively and offensively, we couldn't do anything."