Three local girls earn All-State hoops honors

Tanisha Begay, Nykki Benally and Shontai Grey earn All-State honors

Jake Newby
Shiprock's Tanisha Begay shoots over a pair of Kirtland Central defenders on Feb. 15 at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

FARMINGTON — Three girls basketball players in the San Juan County area have earned All-State honors for their outstanding play in the 2015-2016 season.

Shiprock's Tanisha Begay was selected to the 4A All-State first team, while Piedra Vista's Nykki Benally made the 5A All-State first team. Shiprock's Shontai Grey landed on the 4A second team. 

Benally stuffed the stat sheet for PV during her junior season. She led all 5A players in scoring with 21.4 points per game and was also tops in assists with 4.7. Benally flashed her well-rounded game by managing five rebounds and three steals per contest.

"She meant a lot to our team with her leadership and her ability to distribute and score the basketball," PV coach Joe Reed said. "I think she'd be the first to tell you she couldn't have done what she did without her teammates."

Benally could shoot, score in the lane and create her own shot. Reed said her improvement in nearly every area of the game was a direct reflection of her work ethic.

"She really was the first one to the gym and the last one to leave," he said. "Whether it was in our gym or the (San Juan) college, she spent a lot of time on her own getting better. You had to arm wrestle her to get her off the court."

Benally closed her prep career by scoring 24 points in PV's second-round loss to Gallup in this month's state tournament.

Piedra Vista's Nykki Benally shoots over Gallup's Deerae Torrez during a Jan. 22 game at Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington.

Begay — just a junior — received first-team 4A All-State honors for the second consecutive season.

The most athletic player on the Lady Chieftains roster, Begay could handle the ball and shoot — two of Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson's most prized attributes.

"She's best when she has the ball in her hands and when she can really see the whole floor," Henderson said. "I'm being patient with her as she grows, and I hope to see more of that growth next year out of her."

Begay, a combo guard, paced Shiprock in assists with four per game. Her 11 PPG was second on the team behind Grey, and she showed her defensive prowess by averaging three steals and two blocks per game.

Henderson said he thinks if Begay can develop more of a killer instinct on the floor, she can take her game to a new level.

"She had a couple games this year where she put the team on her back," Henderson said. "She needs to have that attitude every game. Her work ethic is outstanding, and she has that fire going in practice. It would be something to see her bring that same fire to each and every minute of every game."

Grey was the Lady Chieftains leading scorer with 13 PPG. The senior could step outside and hit 3-pointers and wasn't afraid to mix it up on the glass, as evidenced by her average of four offensive rebounds per game.

Grey upped her scoring average to 17 PPG during the state tournament. Henderson said he was impressed by her late-season explosion.

"She did everything right for us, starting around district time," he said. "She made a lot of tough shots and did a lot of good things."

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

Henderson said it was an honor for his team to receive two All-State selections.

"I'm proud at the recognition we're getting. I know we've had some players with All-State potential for a couple years now, so it's good to see that start happening," he said. "I texted Shontai today, and she was really surprised and happy. I know it means a lot to the girls, and I'm just proud."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.