AZTEC – The Shiprock girls basketball team picked up another win over a quality opponent on the final day of the Aztec Lady Tigers Rumble.
The Lady Chieftains held off a second-half charge from Piedra Vista for a 63-57 win Saturday morning at Lillywhite Gym.
“I’m very proud of the girls to come back," Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson said. "We played two good teams yesterday, then had the long bus ride back here first thing in the morning and (got) after it again against a well-rested team. It was good to see. I’m amazed with them. They’re handling things well, they’re focused, executing and getting things done.”
With a 9 a.m. tipoff, both teams took some time to get going, but the Lady Chieftains got a boost off the bench when junior Melanie Secody knocked down 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give Shiprock (11-1) a 13-7 lead with a little more than three minutes left in the first quarter.
While Secody provided a lift for Shiprock, PV (8-3) couldn’t get a shot to fall in the first half and trailed 32-22 at halftime.
“A three-and-a-half week layoff, I was expecting more rust than there was,” PV head coach Joe Reed said. “The first half was rough, but the girls kept it together, and once we found our legs and got the wheels running, it was pretty decent.”
In the third quarter, the Lady Panthers connected on three 3-pointers to get on track and cut Shiprock’s lead to 41-38 with a minute remaining in the quarter.
But Shiprock responded with an 11-4 run to push its lead back to 10 points with five minutes remaining in the game.
“We executed, and we found the open people. PV came down and hit some big 3-pointers,” Henderson said. “But every time they scored, we went down and hit shots when we needed to. It was fun. It was a really fun game.”
Again, the Lady Panthers battled back, cutting the deficit to 61-57 with 55 seconds left.
Needing to generate extra possessions to try to complete the comeback, PV had to start fouling to send Shiprock to the free-throw line. But the Lady Panthers had four fouls to give before Shiprock entered the bonus, and by the time Shiprock went to the line shooting one-and-one, only 15 seconds remained.
Tanisha Begay led Shiprock with 14 points. Paige Dale and Secody scored 11 points each.
PV’s Nykki Benally scored 18 points. Dani Russo added 10 for the Lady Panthers.
Shiprock will play Socorro (5-7) at the Hope Christian tournament in Albuquerque on Thursday.
Durango, Colo., 31, Aztec 26
Aztec’s offense simply couldn’t get enough shots to fall, and the result was a 31-26 loss to Durango, Colo., in the final game of the Aztec Lady Tigers Rumble at Lillywhite Gym.
“Our shooting was way off today,” Aztec head coach Robert McCaskill said. “But we also messed up some little things. We gave up 12 points on backdoor screens. Our defense is first, and we didn’t do a good job on that.”
Throughout the game, Aztec (13-3) found open looks at the basket, but time and again, the shots rattled out.
After trailing 20-14 at halftime, the Lady Tigers’ shooting struggles continued in the third quarter, as they managed only 2 points.
With a little more than five minutes left in the game, Aztec’s Myra McCaskill made a 3-pointer to snap a long scoreless drought and bring the Lady Tigers within 10 points.
Two minutes later, McCaskill connected on another triple to make it 28-24 with 3:02 remaining.
But again, Aztec’s shots stopped falling, and the Lady Demons (6-1) ran out the clock for the win.
Despite the loss, the weekend was good for the Lady Tigers, who went 2-1 at their home tournament, and McCaskill said he’s happy with the team’s development in the post.
“We saw a lot of improvement in our posts,” McCaskill said. “Last year, we were guard dominant, and this year we’re slowly developing our post play.”
Aztec will play at Santa Fe Indian School (5-7) on Tuesday.
Piedra Vista 53, Santa Fe 33
After playing a morning game against Shiprock in Aztec, Piedra Vista hosted Santa Fe (7-7) Saturday evening and dominated the second half for a 53-33 victory at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington.
The Lady Panthers led only 18-12 at halftime, but implemented their full-court press in the second half and ran away with the game.
“We were worried about legs at the beginning of the game, so we didn’t press at all the entire first half and sat back in a zone,” PV head coach Joe Reed said. “In the second half, we started pressing and found our legs a little bit in the third quarter.”
Eli Wright led the Lady Panthers with 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Nykki Benally scored 19 points and dished out 11 assists.
PV will host Durango, Colo., on Tuesday.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.