Six area players land spots on all-star rosters

Karl Schneider
Piedra Vista's Keegan Acosta dunks the ball during a game against Miyamura on Feb. 23 at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – Six area basketball players, three boys and three girls, have been named to the North-South All-Star games rosters.

The annual all-star games are held every summer, and the roster spots are reserved for graduating seniors. All six players will be on the North teams for their respective games.

Piedra Vista’s Keegan Acosta was the area’s lone player to be selected for the 5A/6A boys game, which will be played July 28 at Eldorado High School in Albuquerque.

Acosta led the team this season with 15.7 points per game, and grabbed 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game to establish himself as one of PV’s most well-balanced and all-around players.

“Keegan has been a great asset to our program over his two and a half years on varsity. He’s never gotten too high in his emotions, instead ... being sort of a stabilizer and an example of simply doing your job on the team,” PV head coach Adam Huff said. “He’s been a program guy and has helped more our program forward.”

Bloomfield’s Malachi Pablo and Shiprock’s Andre Joe landed on the roster for the 3A/4A boys game, which will be played June 11 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Pablo was named the District 1-4A co-player of the year this season, sharing the honor with Zuni’s Matt Tsabetsaye.

Pablo was a natural scorer who enjoyed pressure situations, which head coach Devon Manning said came naturally to him.

Bloomfield's Malachi Pablo shoots during a game against Santa Fe Indian School on March 5 at Bobcat Gym in Bloomfield.

“Outside of basketball, he has a very calm personality. No game was too big for him,” Manning said. “He loved the spotlight and wasn’t afraid to take the big shot if we needed him to, but he also wasn’t afraid to give up the shot for a better one for someone else. His personality fit right into the mold of playing in big games.”

Joe, who was the district’s co-player of the year for 2014-15, was one of Shiprock’s leaders who set the example of how much work goes into being successful on the court.

“Kids like him are hard to come by — kids who play with emotion and give not only 100 percent but 150 percent. It’s going to be difficult for someone to fill those shoes,” Shiprock head coach Chester Atcitty said. “He showed them (younger players) the intensity that you have to play with to be competitive at that level.”

PV’s Nykki Benally made the 6A/5A girls game, which will be played June 10 at the Santa Ana Star Center. In her senior season, Benally led PV in points (21.4) and steals (3.0) per game.

PV head coach Joe Reed said Benally had the ability to get her shot at all times, but he said her ability to create for others and her leadership are what set her apart.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that she led the state in assists with more than five assists per game. She scores a lot, but she is also very unselfish,” Reed said. “Her leadership was top notch, and she led by example. She’s the ultimate competitor, no matter what she does. Whether it’s basketball, softball or anything she has ever done, she wants to win.”

Shiprock’s Shontai Grey and Navajo Prep’s Jasmine Coleman made the 3A/4A girls game, which will be played June 11 at the Santa Ana Star Center.

Grey led the Lady Chieftains with 13 points per game this season, proving to be a near-impossible matchup for defenses with her ability to overpower smaller defenders in the post and consistently knock down 3-pointers to pull opposing teams’ shot blockers away from the rim.

Shiprock's Shontai Grey shoots over Kirtland Central's Krystal Sheka on Jan. 29 at the Chieftain Pit in Shiprock.

“She really came around at the end (of the season) and got out of the shell that she was in,” Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson said. “She has a lot of talent. I think she held herself back at times because she’s so humble and shy. For our program, the way she stepped up was great. She brought us a long way.”

Coleman made the roster despite only playing in a handful of games this season for health reasons. Even though she was not able to contribute on the court, Coleman was at the Lady Eagles’ practices and on their bench during games, and Prep head coach Rainy Crisp said Coleman acted in the capacity of another coach during the season.

The nod to make the roster was also a statement about how much Coleman had proven to other coaches during her previous three seasons with the Lady Eagles.

“With her being selected, although she didn’t play this year, it’s a huge honor, especially knowing what other coaches saw in her the past three years that she did play,” Crisp said. “She has made a name for herself at Navajo Prep. Other coaches know who she is, respect her as a player and know her capabilities.”

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