ALBUQUERQUE — The Shiprock girls basketball team finished Taos off before the Lady Tigers even knew what hit them.
Behind a hot start from Tanisha Begay, the No. 2 Lady Chieftains sped out to a 19-0 first-quarter lead on No. 7 Taos and never looked back, winning 53-32 in the 4A state quarterfinals on Tuesday at The Pit in Albuquerque.
Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson said huge starts like the one his team got off to are critical because they can force the opposition to get desperate.
“I know from my own past experiences of being held to zero, you feel like you've got to hurry up and get to the (free-throw) line and break that goose egg right away,” he said. “Because if you don’t, it will get to the girls’ minds.”
Shiprock (29-3) couldn’t have had a better start, scoring on its first four possessions while forcing the Lady Tigers (17-13) to turn it over on their first three.
Begay started three of five from the field with one 3-pointer before Shontai Grey grabbed the baton from her Shiprock teammate.
Grey scored 7 second-quarter points and 10 before halftime. The senior had it all working on Tuesday, sinking both of her 3-point attempts in the contest and relentlessly attacking the glass for rebounds. She finished with a game-high 15 points and seven boards.
“I took advantage every time their tall girl subbed out,” Grey said, referring to Taos center Midnite Lujan. “That’s when I knew I had a mismatch.”
Shiprock outrebounded Taos 36-22 in the game. Alyssa Harvey led the Lady Chieftains with eight rebounds. Lujan had three, and no player on Taos had more than four.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we crash the boards, especially (in the state tournament),” Henderson said. “I tell the girls on defense, ‘Either don’t let them shoot at all, or make sure that’s the only shot they get when they do shoot.’”
The Lady Chieftains slowed down offensively after the break, only outscoring Taos 9-7 in the third. But the defense never eased up, allowing Shiprock to coast.
Henderson said he thought rapid substitutions might have caused a rift in the offensive continuity, but he wasn’t concerned with the dip in production.
“I think substitutions got a little tricky. I saw some girls like Tanisha get a little tired, and I wanted to start mixing it up,” he said. “That might have been what that was. But I don’t think the effort ever left.”
All 7 of Begay’s points came during the opening minutes of the first quarter. Shiprock’s Keishonna Begay came off the bench to score 14 points on six-for-seven shooting.
Shiprock hit four of 11 from 3-point range. Taos connected on five 3-pointers, but needed 20 attempts to do so.
The Lady Chieftains will play the winner of Tuesday night's game between No. 3 West Las Vegas and No. 6 Santa Fe Indian School in the semifinals. That game will be on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at The Pit.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.