Shiprock ready for return to state glory

Karl Schneider

ALBUQUERQUE – When the Shiprock girls basketball team takes the court Friday afternoon for the 4A girls state title game, the Lady Chieftains will see a familiar foe in defending 4A champions Hope Christian.

Shiprock's Tanisha Begay shoots over Santa Fe Indian School's Milan Schimmmel during their 4A state semifinal game Thursday at The Pit in Albuquerque.

Last year in the 4A semifinals, Hope ended Shiprock’s season with a 48-40 win in overtime. And at Hope’s tournament earlier this season, the Lady Huskies came up with a steal and score in the final 10 seconds to beat the Lady Chieftains 45-43.

Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson said he knows Friday’s final will be a tough game, but he is confident in his team’s chances of bringing home a sixth state title in program history.

“Hope is a great team. They do some impressive things and are well disciplined. Coach Terry (Heisey) does a great job coaching them, and I think it’s going to be a battle,” Henderson said. “But if we come out like we did today and really clamp down on our defense, I have a lot of firepower on our team, and we’re clamping down on defense. I want to see what Hope is going to do against us.”

Shiprock, the No. 2 seed in the tourney, topped No. 6 Santa Fe Indian School 58-23 today in the semifinals to advance to the final while the No. 5 Lady Huskies edged No. 1 Portales 35-34 when Hanna Valencia knocked down a free throw with 2.9 seconds remaining.

In Shiprock’s win over SFIS, the Lady Chieftains dominated every aspect of the game, shooting 51 percent from the field while creating 24 turnovers on defense.

With a 40-10 halftime lead on the Lady Braves, Shiprock was able to rest many of its key players during the second half to help preserve the Lady Chieftains’ legs for the final.

Shiprock has rolled into the final, beating Taos 53-32 on Tuesday to win its two games at The Pit by a combined score of 111-55.

Hope’s journey to the final was a little tougher, as the Lady Huskies knocked off No. 4 Kirtland Central 53-44 on Tuesday before earning the win over Portales today.

Following the win over KC, Hope’s Alivia Lewis said the Lady Huskies felt spurred by the selection committee’s decision to seed them at No. 5 and are using it as motivation this week.

“I guess there was a little bit (of a chip on our shoulder),” she said on Tuesday. “I mean, we beat the second seed (Shiprock).”

Hope has lost nine games this season, but all nine came to either 6A or 5A opponents.

The championship game, which will tip off at 3:30 p.m. at The Pit, will be the last for five Shiprock seniors — Keishonna Begay, Shontai Grey, Alyssa Harvey, Lacey Howe and Cassandra Peters — and Harvey’s message to the rest of her team heading into the game is simple.

“Just to give it your all, no matter what,” Harvey said. “Whether it’s your last game or your first, you just have to give it your all. Don’t give up.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.