Shiprock knocks Prep out of 4A state playoffs

Defense, strong shooting in the third quarter propel the No. 2 Lady Chiefs into 4A semifinals against No. 3 Robertson

Jake Newby

ALBUQUERQUE — For the fourth time in a little more than 40 days, the Shiprock girls basketball team defeated Navajo Prep.

Shiprock's Tanisha Begay shoots over Navajo Prep's Chantel Wagner on Tuesday during their 4A quarterfinal game in Albuquerque.

Today's meeting — a 4A state quarterfinal game at The Pit in Albuquerque — was the most important one of them all, and the No. 2 Lady Chieftains rose to the occasion by leading wire to wire and clipping the No. 10 Lady Eagles 65-52.

Melanie Secody scored 15 points and Tanisha Begay added 14 for a Lady Chieftain squad that got gradually more comfortable as the game went on. Shiprock (24-5) shot 39 percent from the field in the first half against an aggressive but disciplined Prep defense, but started figuring things out toward the end of the second quarter and into the third.

"We just kind of forgot what we were running. We kind of went off on our own there for a bit," Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson said. "But in the locker room, we said what we needed to say, that we needed to run plays and execute, and the shot selection got a lot better."

Prep, which fell to Shiprock by an average of 28 points per loss in the teams' previous three meetings, stuck right with the District 1-4A champs for the better part of the first half, and even got within 3 points of the Lady Chiefs by the midway point of the second quarter.

Navajo Prep's Martinique Larvingo shoots over Shiprock's Melanie Secody during their 4A quarterfinal game Tuesday in Albuquerque.

Junior forward Martinique Larvingo dropped 10 points in the second quarter as Prep (16-11) tried to play as aggressively today as it did during Friday's win over Silver.

"We were letting shooters be in their comfort zone and shoot in the district title game against Shiprock," Prep coach Rainy Crisp said. "We weren't aggressive offensively nor defensively. So that's one thing we changed for the state playoffs, just coming out more aggressive. And I think it worked. We surprised Silver with our aggressive defense, and then we did the same to Shiprock. So it's something, definitely, to build on for next year."

Defense spearheaded the Lady Chiefs' attack in the third quarter, as active hands on the perimeter and in the lane caused Prep to turn the ball over eight times. Shiprock won the third quarter by a score of 19-12.

While Larvingo was stellar all afternoon, she didn't have much help in the scoring department for Prep. Larvingo notched a game-high 21 points in the contest, and although Harlei Haceesa scored 14, 10 of Haceesa's points came in the fourth quarter during a double-digit ball game.

Henderson said he thinks that lack of depth became increasingly more apparent after halftime, and it worked to Shiprock's benefit.

"I give a lot of credit (to Larvingo) because she had a lot of energy out to there trying to motivate her players, trying to push for a win," Henderson said. "I just felt like Prep didn't have that much depth. But (Larvingo) gave it her best, and I give her a lot of credit for that."

With the win, Shiprock moves into Thursday's semifinal to play No. 3 Robertson (22-6). With the loss, Prep heads back home to Farmington. But to Larvingo — who just made her first trip to Albuquerque in her three-year prep career — Navajo Prep's season was a successful one.

"My freshman and sophomore year, we were in 3A, and we didn't get past the first round of state," Larvingo said. "And moving up into 4A, I played against a lot of the girls who play on 4A teams in the summer, and I knew that (Prep) could play with them. At the beginning of the season, I told them before our first game, 'We can do a lot this year. We can go far.' And I think a lot of the girls listened to what we were saying, and I think we made a statement in our first year in 4A."

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