Lady Chieftains hope to repeat at 4A state champions
SHIPROCK — Those representing the Shiprock girls basketball team's second unit last year have a giant responsibility ahead of them this year.
That group generated some productive minutes coming off the bench and got a taste what it takes to win the 4A state title, and now they're tasked with leading the charge toward a possible repeat.
"I'm pretty confident we're going to be strong this year. I'm hoping they accept (the challenge). I'm anxious to see how they're going to (respond)," coach Larenson Henderson said. "If we can take care of the basketball, play good defense and limit teams from having second, third and fourth opportunities, I think we'll be OK."
Senior forwards Kylie McKinley, Tia Woods and Chamika Begaye and junior forward Tayya Dale are expected to have bigger roles this year.
"They're really fast on defense and offense. They've been watching us play, and I think they just need to improve every day to put it on the court," said freshman point guard Tiontai Woods, the team's only returning starter. "I think there's pressure put on the girls we're returning back. (But) coach always tells us if there's pressure, there's an opportunity."
During their championship run, the Lady Chieftains relied on overwhelming foes with their pressure defense and generating fast-break scoring chances from there.
Shiprock often created two-on-one and three-on-two mismatches, pushing the ball up the court and knocking down open shots in transition.
Henderson said his players have a good sense of when to attack and when to stand by in setting up plays accordingly.
Shiprock (26-5 last year) begins its title defense at 4 p.m. Saturday at Gallup.
"It's wonderful playing in The Pit (at state), and I want to do it again," Tiontai Woods said.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.