Gleason guides Lady Broncos with 25 points

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SHIPROCK – Another thrilling chapter was written in the storied rivalry between the Kirtland Central and Shiprock girls basketball teams on Friday night.

Haile Gleason poured in a game-high 25 points to lead the visiting Lady Broncos to a 57-53 overtime win over Shiprock in front of a packed house at the Chieftain Pit.

The upset marks the first time Kirtland Central (14-5, 4-0 District 1-4A) has beaten the Lady Chieftains since January of 2012. It also snaps Shiprock's 45-game unbeaten streak against district opponents, as the rivals were in separate districts from 2010-2011 through 2013-2014.

The Lady Chieftains (16-3, 3-1) had won the last nine meetings between the teams until Friday.

"I've heard that Kirtland hasn't beat Shiprock in years. That's all me and my teammates have been talking about today," Gleason said. "This win means a lot to our team."

Gleason wasted no time making an impact in the game. In the first quarter, the sophomore stole two passes that she turned into breakaway layups and knocked down a 3-pointer to help her Lady Broncos come out of the frame with a 14-13 lead.

Shiprock went on spurts of solid play in the two middle quarters to keep within striking distance, thanks in large part to Tanisha Begay's 8-point third quarter. But Shiprock wouldn't overtake KC for the lead again until a Keishonna Begay fourth-quarter layup briefly put the hosts up 44-42.

The Lady Broncos never trailed again after that, as Gleason netted 4 straight points immediately following Begay's mid-fourth quarter bucket to make it a 46-44 game in KC's favor.

Shontai Grey would later retie the score with a short jumper inside the final 30 seconds, and Shiprock then forced a turnover to set up a chance to steal the game in regulation.

After the Lady Chieftains inbound pass with 11 seconds left, the active hands of KC defenders forced a loose ball, and both teams scuffled for possession until time ran out in the fourth.

Lady Broncos coach John Zecca said his defense played great all night, especially down the stretch when the pressure was on.

"I think Shiprock had a pretty good game plan against our zone; they were looking to go high-low on us," he said. "That can be hard to cover sometimes if you don't have your head on a swivel, but we were able to make some adjustments and really slow them down at different points."

In overtime, with the game tied at 53, Gleason made another tremendous play in the face of pressure. She pump faked a defender out of her way before weaving through the lane past two more defenders for the difficult lay-in.

"That wasn't what supposed to happen on that play," Gleason recalled. "I dribbled inside after Melanie (Secody) jumped, but then I saw another two girls step up, so I went with the Euro step to get past them."

Shiprock had one more chance to tie and drew up a play designed for Keishonna Begay to score in a one-on-one opportunity in the post. The senior got a good look deep in the paint, but missed the shot from point-blank range.

The Lady Chieftains missed easy shots inside left and right, which made all the difference in the final score. Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson said that's something basic that needs to be corrected in practice.

"That's what I've been saying from the beginning is, we miss too many easy shots," he said. "If we're not going to work hard on those in practice, and not go to the basket with some real authority, that's what we're gonna get. It's about heart, and that's something you can't teach."

Tanisha Begay scored a team-high 20 points for Shiprock, which will stay at home to battle Albuquerque Academy at noon today.

KC will try to build off the emotional win when it hosts Bloomfield on Tuesday.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577. 

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