Shiprock hammers Santa Fe Indian in semifinal
Shontai Grey's versatility shines through as Shiprock sprints into the state final
ALBUQUERQUE – The Shiprock girls basketball team is making a habit of finishing off top 10 teams in the state before the second quarter even begins.
The No. 2 Lady Chieftains were on top of their game Thursday, taking a 25-4 advantage into the second quarter and then closing out strong to knock off No. 6 Santa Fe Indian School 58-23 in their 4A state semifinal game at The Pit in Albuquerque.
The drubbing sets up a Shiprock vs. Hope Christian state title contest, a rematch of last year's state semifinal, which Hope won 48-40 in overtime. The Lady Huskies also handed Shiprock one of its three losses earlier this season.
Sizzling-hot starts are becoming the norm for the Lady Chieftains. They sprinted to a 19-0 lead against Taos in Tuesday's quarterfinal, and held a 34-4 lead over the Lady Braves (20-11) by the midway point of the second quarter on Thursday.
Shiprock's Shontai Grey, who scored a game-high 14 points, said the fast starts have been a welcome development, particularly because they were few and far between during the regular season.
"I was surprised because usually we struggle in the beginning and get better," Grey said. "But everybody on the team has been coming to play."
The Lady Chieftains (31-3) had a stranglehold on the game by halftime, leading 40-10, and Grey contributed in every way. The senior muscled up shots with multiple defenders draped on her, got her hands in passing lanes to create turnovers and helped her teammates out with touch passes that led to easy layups.
Grey had a complete stat line with nine rebounds and three assists. She was four of four from the free-throw line and five of seven from the field.
Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson said he scouted the Lady Braves heavily this week and had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do against them.
"I wanted to make sure that we didn't get into a run-and-gun with Santa Fe," Henderson said. "We're good at it, but at the same time, we want to show poise and make sure we execute plays. And the girls got it down."
The Lady Chieftains were OK from deep, hitting on three of their nine 3-point attempts. But they were more focused on moving the ball around to find the best high-percentage shots.
Of the 22 field goals Shiprock scored in the game, 18 were set up by an assist. Senior Alyssa Harvey said that was a product of everyone being on the same page.
"I think we just all wanted to win really bad," Harvey said. "We don't play selfishly."
Unlike the Taos game, Shiprock kept the pedal to the floor in the third quarter. The Lady Chiefs outscored Santa Fe Indian 14-7 that period.
"I think right now, the momentum's going with us, and we don't want to let up," Henderson said. "I feel like we've got a lot of firepower on our team, and I want everyone to gain that confidence."
Tanisha Begay shot four of seven from the field for 7 points. She handed out a team-high five assists. Paige Dale added 8 points and three assists.
The Lady Chiefs will get a little more than 24 hours of rest before tipping off with No. 5 Hope at 3:30 p.m. Friday at The Pit.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.