Begay, Clichee lift Navajo Prep into title game

Navajo Prep earns 45-42 win over Shiprock to advance to Saturday's District 1-4A championship game against Wingate

Karl Schneider
  • In Thursday's game against Shiprock, Trejan Clichee scored 12 of Prep's 19 points in the first half.
  • Before the game, Wingate moved the district championship game from its home gym to Gallup High.
  • The move was made assuming Shiprock would beat Prep and Gallup could accommodate Shiprock's fan base.
  • The Eagles say that motivated them to work harder to beat Shiprock. Now they face Wingate for the district title.
Navajo Prep's Trejan Clichee shoots over the Kirtland Central junior varsity's defense on Dec. 10 at the Eagles Nest.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Prep boys basketball team has been through a lot this season.

The Eagles were hit hard by injuries during the year and saw a handful of players miss the second half of the season after being declared academically ineligible for the second semester.

Through all of this, Prep has moved forward, getting breakout performances from underclassmen and steady leadership from its seniors. And in Thursday night's 45-42 win over Shiprock to advance to Saturday's District 1-4A championship game, the Eagles got both.

Sophomore Trejan Clichee scored 12 of the Eagles' 19 points in the first half after hitting four 3-pointers, and senior Dylan Begay provided the leadership and on-court consistency the Eagles have needed in a tight game.

"Trejan Clichee was amazing. He had five 3s, four in the first half that kept us in the game," Prep coach Rick Hoerner said. "And Dylan Begay played a typical Dylan Begay game. When you look at his stat line you might say, 'Maybe he only had 6 points,' but he had 10 rebounds and five assists, a couple of steals, a couple of big blocks. He had another big game for us."

Clichee is among the Eagles who have thrived during the tumultuous season. At the start of the year, he was slotted as a role player for the Eagles, coming off the bench to play about six minutes per game. But soon he was playing 25-plus minutes to fill the void left by injuries and suspensions.

"It meant a lot to be given the opportunity to step up," Clichee said. "I wanted to step up and show the team what I'm capable of doing and how I can help the team."

Clichee has been a consistent threat for the Eagles from 3-point land this season, benefiting from Prep's wealth of strong post players, who are led by Begay.

"Our leadership begins with Dylan Begay," Hoerner said. "He's an incredible leader and teammate. As a senior, he allows those guys to take on a role and accepts when they say stuff. If your senior leader doesn't see the underclassmen as equals, no one will. Dylan has done that, and I think that has been key for us."

Over the past two seasons, the Eagles have been the victim of what they believe to be a lack of respect for their program. Last season, they won 20 games and were the only 20-win team across all six classifications not to receive a home game for the first round of the state tournament. They used that slight as motivation, beating No. 7 Estancia 45-42 to advance to the 3A quarterfinals.

This week, they felt a similar disrespect. Before Thursday's game against Shiprock, Wingate, the No. 1 seed in the District 1-4A tourney, moved the district championship game from its home gym to Gallup High under the assumption that Shiprock would beat Prep and Gallup's larger gym would better accommodate the Shiprock fan base expected to make the trip for the title game.

Navajo Prep's Dylan Begay shoots over the Rehoboth Christian defense on Dec. 15 at the Eagles Nest.

"When we learned that they were going to play the game in Gallup for the championship, it was more motivation for us because we felt that they (Wingate) should have thought of us first instead of Shiprock," Begay said. "Them overlooking us and seeing us as the underdogs against Shiprock was a mistake. It was motivation for us and it still is motivation for us."

The Eagles will get their chance to prove that Wingate was wrong to overlook them when they meet for the district title at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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