Aztec catches fire from deep, beats Shiprock

The Tigers hit nine 3-pointers to propel them to a 51-48 win over Shirpock at the Shiprock Chieftains Tournament

Karl Schneider

SHIPROCK — In its season opener Thursday, the Aztec boys basketball team showed all kinds of early-season rust. But that was hardly the case tonight when the Tigers took on Shiprock at the Shiprock Chieftains Tournament.

Aztec's Cody Smith goes up for a shot against Shiprock's Aaron Gould on Friday night at the Chieftain Pit.

Aztec executed its offense, locked in on defense and handled the full-court pressure of the Chieftains to earn a 51-48 victory at the Chieftain Pit.

“We had 29 turnovers (against Window Rock, Ariz.,) yesterday, so we knew Shiprock was going to identify our problem getting the ball up and down the court. We spent some time today in walk-through and film session identifying those issues and making some adjustments in our press break,” Aztec coach Matthew Steinfeldt said.

The Tigers (2-0) did a lot of their damage from behind the arc, connecting on nine 3-pointers in the game.

After trailing 18-13 after the first quarter, Shiprock (1-3) made a run midway through the second, tying the game at 23 when senior guard Kevin Begay hit a 3 from the left wing with 3:50 remaining before halftime.

But Shiprock’s offense stalled after that, not scoring the rest of the quarter and trailed 28-23 at halftime.

“One thing that we’re struggling with is our execution on offense,” Shiprock coach Chester Atcitty said. “I think we’re still jelling together. If you look at our lineup, we’re pretty young. I think we’ll come along. The chemistry’s not quite there, but we’re building toward that.”

Shiprock's Kieon Harvey hits a jump shot while being fouled by Aztec's Chase Morrison on Friday at the Chieftain Pit in Shiprock.

Shiprock found its rhythm again to start the third quarter and took its first lead of the game at 32-31 with 4:44 left in the quarter.

A 3 from the left corner from Arvin Begay in the closing minutes of the third gave Shiprock a 37-34 lead, but it would be the last advantage the Chieftains held.

During the final minute and a half of the third quarter and the opening minute of the fourth, Aztec’s Cody Smith went on a 7-0 run by himself, dominating in the post, to give the Tigers a 41-37 lead.

“Height wise, he’s probably a guard, but he’s so big and strong,” Steinfeldt said of Smith. “He squats close to 500 pounds, and there aren’t that many kids in the state who are that athletic and that strong. He can go down there and mix it up.”

Smith led all scorers with 18 points.

Aztec’s Jake Fiel hit five 3s to account for his 15 points.

Kevin Begay led Shiprock with 12 points, and Arvin Begay added 10.

Both teams will close out play at the tournament Saturday.

Aztec will play Utah’s Whitehorse (1-0) at 9:30 a.m.

Shiprock will take on Arizona’s Window Rock (0-2) at 3:30 p.m.

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