ALBUQUERQUE — After a nearly perfect season in which the Shiprock girls basketball team ran off 29 straight victories on the way to the 3A title game, the Lady Chieftains will look to reload their lineup next season.
Shiprock is set to graduate its entire starting lineup from this past season, and for most teams, that would mean a difficult rebuilding year lies ahead.
But the Lady Chiefs aren't like most high school teams. With a roster that went 10 players deep, Shiprock will have a fresh starting lineup ready to go for next season, and the person expected to lead that group will be Tanisha Begay.
Begay stepped up as the top scorer for the Lady Chiefs' second unit, scoring 47 points in the four playoff games to lead the team.
"She has a green light. Being a freshman, I really don't want to hold her back for scoring," Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson said. "She has a great shot."
Multiple times throughout the season, it was the Lady Chiefs' bench that provided the spark in games after the team got off to a slow start.
Begay said one of the most difficult parts of her freshman season was having to perform off the bench.
It was pretty challenging coming off the bench and knowing that I'd have to step up a little," she said. "I worked a lot harder in practice and the whole team pushed each other."
The chemistry between the players on the second unit was a major factor in the team's success.
"We all, as a whole, know what to do out there," Begay said. "We all had a good feel for each other and know how the others play. It's not right when we're not all together."
After losing the championship to Portales in overtime, the Shiprock freshman said that missing out on the tile and an undefeated year will drive her throughout the rest of her playing career.
"I'll look back as this for motivation. It's not a good way to end the season," Begay said. "We wanted to finish a perfect season. We're going to push ourselves even harder, and I don't want this to happen again."
Begay is ready to help lead the Lady Chiefs back to The Pit for another title run next season.
"It's going to be tough, but we can get through it and comeback," she said.
Henderson said he hopes Begay will continue to work on her game during the offseason.
"I'd like for her to try and create more. She can get her teammates open more," he said. "Right now she's a scorer. She gets the ball and shoots."
The Shiprock coach knows he has a special talent in Begay and anticipates good things for her in the seasons to come.
"I think she's going to come back stronger next year and I'm looking forward to her scoring some 30 point games," Henderson said. "She's going to be something."Joshua Perry can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.