Aztec's defense thwarts Durango to win crown
- Navajo Prep had three players score in double figures as the Lady Eagles won the seventh-place game.
- Piedra Vista dominated Los Alamos in the second half to earn third place in the tournament.
- Aztec's Myra McCaskill was named the tourney's MVP after averaging 15.3 points per game.
AZTEC — The Aztec girls basketball team accomplished one of its goals on the season when the Lady Tigers knocked off Durango, Colo., to win their home tournament.
The Aztec defense made Durango look timid and lost throughout the game and propelled the Lady Tigers to a 37-20 victory in the championship game of the Lady Tiger Rumble in the Jungle tonight at Lillywhite Gym.
Reigan Weaver proved to be the difference for Aztec.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore made her presence known to the Lady Demons right away, swatting away a couple of shots early in the first quarter.
With Weaver patrolling the defensive paint, Durango was hesitant to attack the basket, settling for jump shots on the perimeter or forced into trying to float runners over the long arms of Aztec’s shot blocker.
“Her whole thing is she has to be more aggressive, and she started doing that tonight,” Aztec coach Robert McCaskill said of Weaver. “She showed that if you’re aggressive on defense, it shows on offense. You don’t start with offense, you start with defense, and she did an excellent job tonight.”
Aztec (10-5) held Durango (8-5) scoreless for the first 7:30 of action, but struggled to find a groove offensively, scoring only 7 points in the opening quarter.
The Lady Tiger offense picked up in the second quarter while the defense continued to thwart Durango, which didn’t score in the quarter until about one minute remained.
With the defense locked in, Aztec took an 18-9 lead into halftime.
The third and fourth quarters followed the same track as the first half with the Lady Tigers’ zone defense funneling Durango toward Weaver, who influenced any shot inside 15 feet of the basket.
Offensively, Aztec never took over and struggled to knock down shots from the outside. But whenever the Lady Tigers needed a bucket to keep things going, it came from junior guard Myra McCaskill, who led the team with 12 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after averaging 15.3 points over three games.
Robert McCaskill said Myra McCaskill, his daughter, has been slowly growing into one of the team’s leaders this season.
“It’s not easy for her — it’s a process. Leaders don’t fall off of trees,” Robert McCaskill said. “She has to be sure to understand all the attributes that come with it, all the hardships that come with it. She’s going through that, and she’s doing a pretty good job at it.”
Kamrynn Phelps and Sierra Sanders finished with 6 points apiece.
Phelps and Makayla McCaskill were named to the all-tournament team.
Aztec will host Santa Fe Indian School (7-5) on Tuesday for the Lady Tigers' last game before play in District 1-5A begins.
Piedra Vista 43, Los Alamos 28
Piedra Vista had nowhere to go but up after its atrocious start to today's third-place game against Los Alamos (4-12) at the Lady Tiger Rumble in the Jungle in Aztec.
PV (9-6) was dysfunctional in scoring just 10 points before halftime, and was constantly turning the ball over and missing defensive assignments. But the Lady Panthers looked like a different squad after halftime, outscoring the Lady Hilltoppers 33-7 and taking the contest 43-28 at Lillywhite Gym.
PV coach Joe Reed said a major uptick in energy was the difference.
"We weren't playing very fast, we were just jogging around, we weren't rotating properly on the press," Reed said, of his team's first-half output. "I told myself, 'It's a new year, I'm going to coach you harder in practice than I do in games,' and you know, I couldn't do that in the second half. I had to get out there and really be vocal and coach them up. And man, they responded well."
It was like a lid was lifted off the basket for the Lady Panthers in the third quarter, who assumed a 24-23 lead with approximately two minutes to go in the period on a nifty post move by all-tournament team member Elli Wright.
Dani Russo, PV's other all-tourney player, did her part to make sure the Lady Panthers finished strong when she scored 8 of her team-high 11 points in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Panthers host Farmington (6-6) on Monday.
Navajo Prep 73, Crownpoint 26
A nice shootaround session and speech from the coaching staff did wonders for Navajo Prep, which bounced back from a tough 1-point loss on Friday to destroy Crownpoint today.
The Lady Eagles (8-3) easily won the seventh-place game at the Lady Tiger Rumble in the Jungle, 73-26. Prep coach Rainy Crisp said her girls were receptive to what she had to say, and it showed against Crownpoint (2-8).
"We had a good little shootaround after our game yesterday," Crisp said. "We really talked about playing stronger, playing tougher, and we think the shootaround and the good talk we had helped build their confidence back up."
Prep wasted no time pouncing on Crownpoint, taking a 15-point lead into the second quarter. Three Lady Eagles scored in double figures, including Harlei Haceesa, who had 19 points, five rebounds and four steals.
Chantel Wagner dropped 14 points to go along with five steals, in what Crisp said was Prep's best offensive outing of the tournament.
"We were really able to execute our plays, which we didn't do too much the past two games," she said.
Martinique Larvingo was named to the all-tourney team. Against Crownpoint, Larvingo had 12 points and four steals.
Prep plays Capital (3-11) at home on Tuesday.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.