Melanie Secody's speed, layup arsenal has added an element to Shiprock's offense
SHIPROCK — There was a void left in the starting lineup of the Shiprock girls basketball team when Shontai Grey graduated from high school last spring.
Grey averaged 13 points a game last season, helping Shiprock advance all the way to the Class 4A state championship game, which the Lady Chieftains narrowly lost to Hope Christian.
Grey, and then-juniors Tanisha Begay and Paige Dale, formed a potent trio of top scorers. With Grey out of the picture, Shiprock came into the 2015-2016 season in need of another reliable offensive weapon to complement Begay and Dale.
Enter senior guard Melanie Secody.
Standing only 5 feet tall, Secody wasn't mistaken for the 5-foot-10 Grey by anybody who sat in the stands at the Chieftain Pit this season. The former teammates have completely different styles — Grey had a smooth 3-point shooting stroke and wasn't afraid to mix it up underneath the basket to score garbage buckets. The speedy Secody, meanwhile, has made a habit of burning taller, lengthier defenders in the paint with her crafty driving skills.
"There are times she puts me in awe because she's just so tiny, and I just see her go into a crowd of people, and all of a sudden you just see the ball go up and in," Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson said. "Sometimes I'm like, 'Where did she go?' She's got these moves that are fun to watch."
Secody's role last year was that of a defensive sparkplug off the bench. But she has expanded her game this season to the tune of a 9.9 points-per-game average, which is third behind Begay (14.0) and Dale (12.3).
Henderson refers to his scoring leaders as his "big three." Each one of the three team captains picked a quarter to shine in during Friday's 69-30 District 1-4A championship win over Navajo Prep. Secody set the tone with 8 points in the opening quarter, Begay dropped 10 in the second, and Dale made sure the Lady Eagles stayed grounded for good with 9 of her game-high 17 points in the third.
"I need them to step up like that," Henderson said. "We've got to handle pressure when we're down there (in Albuquerque) in that championship game. I told them, 'I hope you guys can handle this,' because Prep came out ready to play. And we got our first glimpse of what those girls can do."
Secody said she didn't try to force the issue during her electric first quarter. She just played within Henderson's system, which calls for tons of passing.
"Our passing has gotten better, and we've just been able to push the ball up more," Secody said. "That's what I was trying to do. I just really wanted to get this win."
Secody, Begay and Dale are all close off the court and that helps with their chemistry on the court, according to Begay, a four-year varsity standout and Fort Lewis College commit. She said trust is a key for teams that aspire to become a champion at any level, and she believes the trust is there for this group of Lady Chieftains (22-5, 6-0 District 1-4A).
"Coach has told us a bunch of times, 'You've got to have trust and faith in one another,'" Begay said. "That's one of the main things I'm proud of Paige and Melanie for, is I know I can trust them with the ball, and I know they'll make the right decisions."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.