FARMINGTON — Not even the defending Class 4A state champions and their star forward Teige Zeller could stop the Shiprock Lady Chieftains' quest for an 18-0 start.
Shiprock took down the Los Lunas Lady Tigers 47-45 in the second round of the Hope Christian Invite on Friday in Albuquerque. It was the first time all season the high-scoring Lady Chiefs were held to fewer than 50 points, but Shiprock did enough to remain unbeaten so far in the 2013-14 campaign.
"We came to this tournament to see if we could handle the pressure," said Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson. "Our girls kept their composure and kept their heads in the game. I thought there were some bad calls, but the girls kept focused on the game and did what they had to do to get the win."
Zeller, Los Lunas' 6-foot-2-inch senior, scored a game-high 20 points, but Henderson was pleased with his team's defense against the forward, noting that eight of her points came against his second five players off the bench after offensive rebounds and put-back layups.
"We just stayed in front of her and didn't fall for her fakes. We have some big girls on our team. She tried to do her step over moves, and she got a bunch of calls her way, but we played pretty straight up and she couldn't get around us," Henderson said.
Ashley John led Shiprock with 18 points, 12 of which came from behind the 3-point line. Henderson was proud of the four-year varsity player and her ability to hit open shots.
"We talked about swinging the ball around. When we see that, we should be ready to shoot the ball, no questions asked. Ashley took to it to do that," Henderson said. "We swung it around to her and she was able to get wide open, especially when Los Lunas went into a zone defense."
The Lady Tigers (7-4) tried to control the pace of the game, holding the ball and running clock while waiting for an open shot.
"They slowed the tempo on us, especially in the second quarter. Nothing against Los Lunas, but I thought out guards were a lot stronger than they were. For them to slow the ball down like that, I didn't think they really penetrated as much," Henderson said. "We didn't capitalize as much as we could have, but that was a big difference in the game."
Henderson said the Lady Chiefs missed several easy baskets, especially inside the paint, where he thought the girls may have been rushing shots to avoid Zeller.
Courtney Steele scored eight points for Shiprock, and Shania Harry added another seven points.
Shiprock hasn't lost since last year's Class 3A state semifinal on March 14. The Lady Chiefs lost 65-55 that day to Hope Christian. Shiprock will face Hope Christian in the championship game of the tournament at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
"We are looking forward to it. The girls are excited. They want to go there and get the feel again for a high-pressure game," Henderson said. "They are hungry for it."
Bloomfield boys win, Lady Bobcats fall
The Bloomfield boys' basketball team picked up a much-needed victory on Friday.
After losing 10 of their last 11 games, the Bobcats (4-12) defeated Hot Springs 63-33 in the consolation bracket of the boys' tournament.
"It was really good to get a win," said Bloomfield boys' coach Devon Manning. "We really need to ride that momentum and win some games."
Malachi Pablo led Bloomfield with 25 points in the win. Raymundo Sanchez added another 13 points for Bloomfield.
"Every time Malachi plays well this year, we have played well. He may be the engine," Manning said. "If he goes, we go. I hope this game gives him confidence to get ready for the bulk of the schedule we have coming up."
Bloomfield will face West Las Vegas (8-6) in the fifth-place game of the tournament Saturday.
"That is going to be pretty big. West Las Vegas is very tough with a lot of good athletes. We will have our hands full," Manning said. "Our defense was pretty good. We rebounded well, and we hit eight 3s against Hot Springs. We will have to bring that times 10 against West Las Vegas."
The Bloomfield girls (3-12) lost to Socorro 55-38 on Friday in the consolation bracket of the tournament. Jasmine Sappington led the team with 16 points.
"We fought hard, but we got in foul trouble again. Fouls are killing us," said Bloomfield girls' coach Tom Adair. "We need to fight hard to get a win (Saturday) against Hot Springs."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.