Navajo Prep Lady Eagles top Tohatchi, win first state basketball championship since 2009

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com

ALBUQUERQUE — The Navajo Prep Lady Eagles soared back to the girls basketball mountaintop after 11 long years.

Prep neutralized district foe Tohatchi to win 43-33 in Friday's Class 3A state championship game at Dreamstyle Arena.

"It's great. It's a cool feeling. It's a happy feeling," shooting guard Hailey Martin said, with a big smile on her face.

Navajo Prep won its first blue trophy since 2009.

"It has been a journey for us," coach Rainy Crisp said. "I'm very proud of this team. I'm very excited for them to experience this. It's a little different with the stands being empty, but this is an awesome feeling."

Navajo Prep’s Tai Tai Woods (24), Aiona Johnson (20) and Laila Charley (1) embrace each other after defeating Tohtachi 43-33 in Friday’s 3A girls basketball state championship game at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque.

The Lady Eagles had key stops applying double-team traps in the corners and constantly trapping in the inner passing lanes.

"We wanted to start off the game in a fast pace... and pressure the ball more so that we could create (chances) on our offense," point guard Tai Tai Woods said.

Despite another slow start on the scoring end, Prep kept penetrating to the basket — whether it resulted in easy points or a quick foul on Tohatchi.

Tohatchi hit some critical jumpers to cut Prep's lead to 24-20 early in the third quarter, but the Lady Eagles remained active swiping at the ball in the passing lanes.

Navajo Prep tallied 19 steals.

Woods and Martin scored a combined 22 points for Prep. Johnson had five points, five rebounds and three assists.

Even amid the coronavirus scare, which led to the New Mexico Activities Association to barring fans from attending the rest of the tournament, Navajo Prep had unfinished business.

Built to contend now, Prep (28-2) finally got the job done.

"We should be thankful enough to even have a chance to play because everybody else wasn't really allowed to play," shooting guard Aiona Johnson said. "The whole feeling of winning and going out when we got our trophy and our medals, it kind of canceled out (the unknown tournament status)."

Navajo Prep’s Hailey Martin celebrates winning Friday’s 3A girls basketball state championship game at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque. Navajo Prep defeated Tohatchi, 43-33.
Navajo Prep’s Tai Tai Woods (24) and Aiona Johnson (20) smother Tohatchi’s Krystal Benally during Friday’s 3A girls basketball state championship game at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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