Back-to-back 30 point games from Elijiah Harry secured a district title for Shiprock
SHIPROCK — Elijiah Harry scored a combined 62 points in the final two district tournament games for the Shiprock boys basketball team when the Chieftains needed him most.
The senior combo guard had the best two-game stretch of his prep career last week, dropping 30 points in Thursday's road win over Kirtland Central in the District 1-4A semifinal, and following that up with 32 points in the game with Wingate at the Chieftain Pit that clinched the district championship.
Both games went into overtime — the title game lasted three overtimes. Shiprock's top scorer and McDonald's All-American nominee Andre Joe was limited in both contests with a sore shoulder. Considering those circumstances, Shiprock needed every one of Harry's points to conquer the district.
"His head has been in the right place; he's definitely focused," Shiprock coach Chester Atcitty said. "He knew what we needed out of him, which was to be a leader and to consistently attack the hoop, and he did that for us."
In the KC win, Harry was a human highlight reel. He hit pull-up 3-pointers, off-balance jumpers and reverse layups, all while being heavily guarded by a solid Broncos defense. Harry wasn't quite as hot on Saturday against Wingate — he had to grind his way to those 32 points.
"Getting to the rim and getting to the free-throw line was all I was trying to do," Harry said. "High-percentage shots, that's what you have to go to if your jumper isn't falling."
Harry got to the free-throw line at will against the Bears, where he went 11 for 14 overall. Harry wasn't happy with that 78 percent clip, but he did go 4 for 4 in the third overtime on his way to a combined 8 points in the OT's. His point total surpassed that of any other player on either team.
He said he relished the spotlight down the stretch.
"You want to show you're a showstopper and that you can close out big games," Harry said.
Unlike many seniors, Harry is in the midst of his first year on varsity. He transferred from Shiprock Northwest prior to his junior year to play on a bigger stage, which cost him a year of varsity eligibility. As a junior, Harry had to play the entire season on Shiprock's junior varsity team.
Harry made the best of that situation, Atcitty said, and the coach thinks last season helped mold him into the type of leader he is today.
"It was a learning experience and a good one," Atcitty said. "It's never been about his ability, I always knew he could play. I think the ineligibility gave him a chance to help out younger and inexperienced players."
Shiprock drew the 12th seed in the Class 4A state tournament, which begins on Saturday. The Chieftains will clash with No. 5 Silver in the opener, and Harry's recent success may put him in an unfamiliar scenario, as a possible focal point of Silver's defensive game plan.
Atcitty said there's no way to know how Harry will handle the Fighting Colts' defense, but he has a feeling his starting guard will be alright.
"Elijiah's got a lot of creativity, that's for sure," Atcitty said. "He knows how to get himself open. If (Silver) focuses on Elijiah, that's fine, because we know he can get the ball to other players, and those other players can step up."
Harry's aware that he could receive special attention from Silver on Saturday, but he's not bothered by it. He's willing to fill whatever role the team needs him to fill in order to pull the upset, which he thinks is definitely in the cards.
"We're not here to take part, we're here to take over," Harry said. "That's what my teammates keep telling each other, and we believe it."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: Elijiah Harry
1. Favorite team?
2. Favorite athlete?
3. Favorite food?
4. Favorite movie?
"World War Z."
5. Favorite subject in school?
6. Least favorite subject?
7. Biggest fear?
8. Do you play any other sports?
"Volleyball and football outside of school."
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
"Buy my parents a new house."
10. Do you have any pregame rituals?
"I watch this Kyrie Irving highlight video."