FARMINGTON — Feeling at home in Hope Christian's gymnasium in front of more than 600 of their own fans, the Shiprock Lady Chieftains earned their biggest win of the season.
The Shiprock Lady Chiefs defeated the Hope Christian Huskies 51-35 to improve to 19-0 this season and win the Hope Christian Invite.
"It was very exciting. We really proved something," said Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson. "But, for our girls, our mentality is that it isn't over. We want to make sure we finish the season. This isn't the end. The blue trophy is what we want."
Shiprock's last loss came March 14, 2013, in the Class 3A semifinals against Hope Christian. Henderson said the team enjoyed getting a bit of redemption, but noted Hope Christian is a much different team than it was a year ago.
"It was good to beat Hope, but they had four freshman starting and only one senior. They lost some key guards, and our guards were a lot more experienced. It was a big difference," Henderson said.
Shiprock defeated Hot Springs, Class 4A defending state champion Los Lunas and Hope Christian during the three-day tournament. It was undoubtedly the toughest test the Lady Chiefs have faced or will face before this year's state tournament.
Courtney Steele was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Henderson said she helped lead the charge and establish the mindset for the team defensively.
"We came here and learned how to box out and play defense. Teams got one shot up, and we would get the rebound. It was so big," Henderson said.
Aranxta Curley, Ashley John, Shania Harry and Taylor Henderson were all named to the all-tournament team along with Steele.
"The girls really all played great. We are playing such great team-ball right now," Larenson Henderson said.
Shiprock's lead reached as high as 24 points on Saturday night. The Lady Chiefs led 27-15 at halftime before going on a big run to open the third quarter thanks to their fast break offense and 3-point shooting.
"It didn't matter if it was our starting five girls or the second five off the bench. Our girls are so resilient," Larenson Henderson said. "They are all balanced and play so hard."
Fans of the Lady Chieftains lined up all afternoon to buy tickets for the game. Hope Christian's gym has a capacity of 750 fans, and Shiprock filled at least 75 percent of the stands.
"That fan support is so great. It was a sell out. There was no way all of our fans could get in there that wanted to. It was so exciting to see," Larenson Henderson said. "The girls really feed off of that crowd support. When we have that, it really gives us confidence."
The Lady Chiefs won't play another game until Feb. 1 when they begin District 1-3A play against Thoreau. Larenson Henderson is confident his team can finish the regular season undefeated.
"That hasn't happened in over 20 years, I think. It isn't often you can go undefeated. The girls are excited, and they want it," he said.
Bloomfield boys and girls fall in consolation bracket
The Bloomfield boys and girls basketball teams wrapped up tough tournaments on Saturday.
Bloomfield's boys (4-13) finished in sixth place in the Hope Christian Invite after a 63-34 loss to West Las Vegas. The Bobcats went 1-2 in the tournament with a win against Hot Springs and a disappointing loss to Socorro.
"Socorro was a game we should have got, but we let it off the hook," said Bloomfield boys' coach Devon Manning. "We need some players to grow up and start playing varsity basketball."
Bloomfield's plan on Saturday was to slow the tempo and control the pace against West Las Vegas. In worked in the first half, but the Dons still built a 28-18 first-half lead.
"We did OK in the first half, but we fell into the way they wanted to play in the second half completely," Manning said.
Malachi Pablo led the Bobcats with 12 points on Saturday. He was selected to the all-tournament team.
The Bloomfield girls went 0-3 and took last place in the girls' bracket following a 41-35 loss to Hot Springs on Saturday morning.
Jasmine Sappington led the Lady Bobcats with 11 points in the loss.
"We had four starters foul out with one and a half minutes left," said BHS girls' coach Tom Adair. "We also didn't do real good from the free-throw line. We were just 10-for-24 from there. That really hurt us. We just gotta keep working hard to get better."
Both teams play against Farmington on Tuesday night. Both teams were beat by the Scorpions last Tuesday.
For the Bloomfield boys, a win against Farmington appears to be a must for their state tournament chances.
"It would really help us, especially if FHS continues to play the way they have been," Manning said. "We know they will bring it hard on Tuesday night, and we have to match their intensity. I wasn't unhappy with the way we played against them last Tuesday, we just didn't make many shots."