Prep boys, girls poised to make run in 1-3A
Both Eagle teams already underway in 2015-2016
FARMINGTON — The Navajo Prep girls basketball team enters the 2015-16 season full of youthful promise.
The Lady Eagles only list four upperclassmen — two seniors and two juniors — on the roster, and head coach Rainy Crisp said those players, along with a couple of returning varsity players, will have to shoulder more responsibility this season.
Last season, Prep finished 14-15 and was awarded the No. 12 seed in the 3A state tournament after finishing second in District 1-3A. The Lady Eagles fell to No. 5 Clayton 57-54 in the first round.
Senior Jasmine Coleman will be back to lead the Lady Eagles.
“She’s a great team leader for us and our go-to person, but she’ll definitely need some help out there. She can’t do it by herself,” Crisp said of Coleman. “We need her to show that leadership on and off the court. She’s the most crucial person for us right now.”
Crisp will also look to senior Jazmin Benally, who has been on the varsity each of the last three seasons, junior Harlei Haceesa and sophomore Martinique Larvingo to be major contributors.
The Lady Eagles opened the season on Thursday, hosting Piedra Vista. The Lady Panthers rolled to a 67-36 win, but Crisp said it was a good chance for her to see what each girl can do.
Unlike most teams, which will have Thanksgiving break to practice, Prep, a residential school, will send its players home to spend the holiday with their family.
“For us, it’s hard because our girls come from everywhere. We can’t come in and practice as much as we’d like to during the (Thanksgiving) break,” Crisp said. “We’ll come in and practice the first two days (Monday and Tuesday), then the girls go home and spend time with their family, who’s two to three hours away.”
Crisp said she hopes the girls will work on their individual game and be ready to get back to work when the break is over.
The Lady Eagles will play at Bayfield, Colo., on Dec. 1, then head to the Santa Fe Indian School Tournament on Dec. 3.
“We have the Santa Fe Indian tournament as soon as we get back from break, and that’s going to be a tough tournament. It’s good that we’re playing all these tough teams right now,” Crisp said. “It’s good for my younger players because it doesn’t allow them to be young — they have to step up. And from what I know of these girls, they’ll be able to do it. I have no doubt that by the time district play starts, we’ll be ready.”
On the boys side, the Eagles are already three games into the season and have fared pretty well under first-year coach Rick Hoerner with a 2-1 record.
Navajo Prep went 5-21 (2-6 District 1-3A) last year and decided to bring in Hoerner, who has experience coaching all over San Juan County, including stints with the Piedra Vista boys and girls teams.
But it’s been tough sledding for Hoerner out of the gate. Nearly half his roster played for the Eagles football team, which just finished its season last week. As a result, Hoerner has only had six players to work with in practice.
“It’s been tough for some of these guys to play catch-up and learn the new system I’m implementing,” Hoerner said. “And we still have two kids who were injured during football.”
Prep has looked solid under Hoerner, picking up a 64-34 win over PV’s junior varsity team and 39-28 victory over Bosque last week. The Eagles suffered from fatigue on Saturday in their first loss of the season, which came at the hands of Santa Fe Indian School 65-38.
Senior Isaiah Chavez, and juniors Dylan Begay and Nashae Nez have spearheaded the Eagles’ strong start to the year.
Chavez, a shooting guard, scored in double digits in the first two games.
“He has a real nice shooting stroke, and he can also get to the hole for us,” Hoerner said of Chavez.
Nez is the team’s starting point guard, and he’s averaging more than 14 points per game out of the gate.
At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Begay is easily Prep’s biggest player. In the loss to Santa Fe Indian, he led the team in scoring with 13 points.
Hoerner is going to try and increase the tempo at which his team operates this season. He said the kids who have been healthy and playing for him in the preseason have done a good job of adjusting to his pace.
“I like to apply a lot of pressure defensively, and I like to play with pace, and our guys have caught on to that very well so far,” he said.
Navajo Prep’s next game will be at home against Farmington’s JV team on Dec. 1.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.