Shiprock tops Wingate in 3OT for district title

Harry, Begay come up clutch in OT as Shiprock wins a 63-60 championship thriller

Jake Newby
jnewby@pnj.com

SHIPROCK – Just because the Shiprock boys basketball team avoided top-seeded Bloomfield in the district final didn't mean the Chieftains weren't in for the biggest fight of their season on Saturday night.

Behind Elijiah Harry's 32-point performance, third-seeded Shiprock outlasted No. 4 Wingate 63-60 in triple overtime at the Chieftain Pit to earn the District 1-4A championship.

Harry scored 30 points on Thursday to help Shiprock (17-12) upset Kirtland Central in the semifinals, but he saved the best for last in the final. Teammate Andre Joe — who has recently been limited by a left shoulder injury, but played major minutes on Saturday — said Harry has been incredible this week.

"I give him credit for keeping this team in the game, at Kirtland and tonight," Joe said. "He's been tremendous for us. I thank him for getting us to this championship game and to allow me to keep playing on."

A 10-0 Shiprock run toward the end of the second quarter sent the hosts into halftime with a 24-15 advantage. But after the break, Wingate (15-14) did something it has done against both Bloomfield and Kirtland Central this month — fight back to take the lead.

Bears point guard Kyle Begay shook off a quiet, 4-point first half to score 9 in the third quarter for the Bears. Begay's 9 points matched Shiprock's team total for the quarter.

Shiprock's Elijiah Harry (5), Justin Yazzie (12) and Cota Nahkai (42) celebrate their District 1-4A Tournament championship win over Wingate on Saturday at the Chieftain Pit in Shiprock.

Wingate took its first lead of the game at 43-41 in the fourth quarter, courtesy of a pair of Begay foul shots following a technical foul on Joe.

The teams traded the lead for the rest of regulation, culminating in a 4-foot jumper by Harry to tie the game at 45 as time ran out in regulation.

Wingate couldn't hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the first overtime, and Shiprock's Arjay Miller clanked a 3-point attempt off the rim to close out the second.

After scoring only 3 points in the first four quarters combined, Kevin Begay came alive for Shiprock in the OT sessions, particularly on the defensive end. Begay came up with crucial steals in both the second and third overtimes — the last to seal it, with four seconds left and his team ahead by 1 point — and he went four for six from the free-throw line in those periods. Chieftains coach Chester Atcitty said the junior showed his true colors by stepping up during crunch time.

Shiprock's Andre Joe (11) comes up with a loose ball against Wingate's Kyle Begay (3) in overtime on Saturday at the Chieftain Pit in Shiprock.

"Steals, free throws, arms out, feet moving — he stepped up at the right time," Atcitty said. "That's what it takes, being ready. And all my players were ready. They're all winners."

It was a roller-coaster ride for Shiprock at the free-throw line, where the team went 16 for 24 in the game. But Harry and Begay hit the important ones in the overtime sessions.

"We made the ones we had to have, that's all that matters," Atcitty said.

Harry's 32 points paced all scorers. He went four for four from the charity stripe in the last two overtimes.

Joe notched 10 points off the bench. He said his shoulder bugged him at first, but it warmed up considerably as the game went on. Immediately after the game, Joe, a senior, grabbed the game ball and held it through the entire post-game district award ceremony.

"Throughout my four years of high school, I gave it my all, and now I don't want to let this game ball go," he said. "I couldn't leave without this championship. Now, I'm not leaving without this ball."

In storybook fashion, the win marked Atcitty's 100th victory as a high school head coach. He deflected praise after the game.

"I want to thank all our fans for the support they show us," he said. "And the players, you can't win without the players, and we got some good ones this year."

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