One Title, Four Teams
Winslow, Window Rock, Holbrook, Valley make Final Four
By Quentin Jodie
PRESCOTT, Ariz., February 21, 2013
(Times Photo – Donovan Quintero)
W hile the Window Rock and Winslow girls' basketball teams adding another chapter to their storied programs, two other teams just got started in writing their own history.
The Holbrook Lady Roadrunners and the Valley Lady Pirates joined the two aforementioned programs as Final Four finalists at the 2013 Arizona's Division III girls' state basketball playoffs.
Perhaps it was helpful that the Lady Roadrunners played from behind.
For a good part of Monday's quarterfinal matchup with Tuba City, Holbrook trailed the No. 4 seed and at one point they were down by as much 13 points late in the third quarter.
But with 3:21 to go in regulation, the Roadrunners took the lead for good on a two-point basket by Starla Smith.
"We had the momentum but it seems like when we get the lead we get too exited," Smith said. "We start to throw away the ball."
She was partly right as Holbrook got a little breathing room when Kaynasa Curley made 1-of-2 free throws that earned the designated visiting team a 45-41 lead with 39 seconds left
"I just told her that we just needed one," Holbrook coach Greg Perkins said of Curley. "Once we got the four-point lead I figured we would be okay."
But with that much time left, this game got a bit chaotic as Tuba City cut the lead down to 45-42 with 17 seconds to go with a free throw by Tate Tsinigine.
And after forcing a quick turnover, the Warriors had a good look from the perimeter and missed. They had another chance but before she could get the shot off, Ranai Daw was fouled with a tenth of a second showing on the clock while behind the three-point line.
The Tuba City sophomore guard made 1-of-2 as the Holbrook girls began celebrating.
"Right at the end, we made it tough on ourselves," Perkins said. "We had those two turnovers and we shouldn't have turnovers like that at this time of the season, but we got the job done."
Tuba City, which led for a majority of the game, were hurt by fouls.
Junior point guard Ashley Lomavaya picked up her fourth foul late in the second quarter and sat on the bench for the entire third before she returned in the fourth.
But with 5:53 left to play, she fouled out while her team was holding onto a 40-35 cushion.
"We stopped running what we were suppose to…" Tuba City coach Kim Williams said when asked to give her analysis of what transpired. "The bottom line is my kids didn't play and we got into foul trouble."
When Lomavaya was in the game, she helped Tuba City break a 13-13 stalemate with two assists to Mariah Begay for a 19-16 lead in the early going of the second quarter.
The Warriors extended that three-point lead to 27-19 at the break with Daw leading the way with four points, all on free throws.
Despite Lomavaya's foul trouble, the Warriors did a good job of managing the game and led 38-30 heading into the fourth.
"I knew that we could pressure them with our defense, especially when their point guard got into foul trouble," Perkins said. "I felt that we could get more steals, but I was a little disappointed that our steals didn't lead to points because they should have when she got into foul trouble."
Perkins said the last time a Holbrook girl's team made the Final Four was some time in the mid 90s.
"It's been 17, 18 years since the girls made it," he said. "So it's the first time since these girls have been alive."
Goldtooth led all scorers with 13 points. Smith added 11 and Colbi Nez chipped in seven. Daw finished with nine in the losing effort while Shiniya Henry added eight.
The plan was simple. But to achieve it, it took a total team effort as the Lady Scouts made 6-foot-3 center Jessica Anderson of Page work really hard to get into position.
The end result was a Final Four appearance as the Scouts picked up a hard-fought 30-24 win.
When asked about the strategy coming into Monday's quarterfinal game, Window Rock coach Charles Chong wanted his three set of post players to play behind Anderson and let her catch the ball six feet from the rim.
"She's less effective there, but she got some good angles on us," Chong said of Anderson. "We weren't really wanting to double team because I know (the Sand Devils) like to shoot the threes. We wanted her to work for that post and get her tired."
Chong said his three post players – Arianne Sheka, Aspen Shepherd and Virlencia Begay – did a great job of limiting Anderson's touches.
"Jessica did her thing and she did a great job," he said. "She still got (14) points. She did her damage…but our girls did a good job of helping each other on the post and staying with their man."
After trailing 17-12 at the break, Anderson hit two consecutive baskets, but that was as close as Page would get.
"We just focused on defense," Shepherd said. "And tonight we really pulled it off."
Besides playing Anderson tough, the Scouts also did a good job of holding the other players in check, especially with sharpshooters Dana Worker and Ember Sloan. Both players finished the game with three points apiece.
"I think that was a big factor because in a slow scoring game every basket counts," Chong said.
Late in the game, the 2011 Division III champions pulled within 27-24 with 1:27 to go on a basket from Autumn Whitehorse.
In the ensuing moments, the Sand Devils forced a couple of turnovers, but they couldn't capitalize.
"We got a couple of steals and we were within three, but we turned around and throw the ball back to them," Page coach Justin Smith said. "We've been talking about that all year and we didn't keep our composure."
Nonetheless, Smith said he can't fault his players because they gave Window Rock a fight.
"They gave everything all night, they gave everything all season," he said. "You know they play for one of the most ornery coaches in the state Arizona and they put up with it."
Even though they trailed by four points at the end of the first quarter this one was never a contest.
The No. 2 seed Sanders-Valley dominated every aspect of their game with Gilbert Christian.
The final score, 61-20, told the whole story.
"A lot of the other teams have figured us out," Valley coach Julie Six said. "They have cut into our fast breaks, but today we were real determined. I just told the girls to keep the full-court pressure up. We just had to score points off their turnovers."
Those points she mentioned didn't come until the second quarter as the Pirates quickly erased a 12-8 deficit and turned it into a 28-15 lead that took all but five minutes to complete.
On three consecutive possessions, Valley made a few extra passes and they were rewarded with wide open looks from the three-point line.
Needless to say, the Pirates converted on all those looks and took the lead for good on a trey from Chelena Betoney at 17-15 with 6:24 to go. Valley then put away its opponent with a 13-1 outburst and led 30-16 at the break.
"We were not playing our game," Valley guard Adrinna Nez said. "We weren't warmed up yet."
By stretching their defense, Nez said it created opportunities as Valley had seven players score with three hitting double figures. Sophomore Kristen Quigley led that attack with 16 points while Nez chipped in 15 and Betoney added 12.
Defensively the Pirates held Gilbert Christian to only five points in the second half.
"We really wanted to win," Nez said. "Coach just told us that we needed to make our baskets count because we were shorter than them."
As for Friday's semifinal game, Nez said she's anticipating a closer matchup with Window Rock.
"We kind of went through our first two games (at state)," she said. "But we still need to play better defense against them."
Friday's game will be the fourth matchup between the two schools.
"We pretty much know what their defense and offense is," Six said. "We also know who their shooters are so we're going to study film and prepare with that."
The task of guarding Jordan Abalos requires backup.
The gifted Safford athlete is a two-time high jump state champion so on Monday night the Winslow Lady Bulldogs made sure they had at least two bodies on her when she played down in the post.
"We knew we had to shut her down," Winslow junior Halle Hayes said. "She scores half of their offense so every time she got the ball we made sure there was some help-side defense behind her."
"She's impossible to out jump," Mattea Begaii added, who helped guard Abalos.
The Safford junior finished the game with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
But that was not enough to counter Winslow's efficiency on the offensive end as the Bulldogs had three players score in double figures.
Begaii led that attack with 20 points, which included five treys from downtown. Junior point guard Marcella Joe put in 13 while Hayes added 10.
"I liked our intensity, especially on the defensive end," Winslow coach Jerron Jordan said. "We as a staff preach defense and our defense is our offense. We got a phenomenal effort from all of the girls because guarding Jordan Abalos is no easy task. I thought we did a good job of containing her."
Although she was a handful, the Bulldogs managed to open the first quarter with a 19-7 lead. That 12-point cushion was later extended to 52-23 heading into the fourth quarter as Winslow showed no signs of slowing down.
"We know this is crunch time so we had to continue to play hard," Hayes said. "You either have to play or go home so we are playing each game like it's our last."
Hayes said they are looking forward to this weekend and they expect Holbrook to give them a good game.
"They are playing really well," Hayes said. "But you know we have our hearts set on winning state. Last year we made it into the championship game, but not winning it was one of the worse feelings. We don't want to experience that again."
The No. 1 Bulldogs are scheduled to play the Roadrunners at 6:15 p.m. on Friday while No. 2 seed Valley will tangle with Window Rock at 2:45 p.m. at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.
The winners will move onto the championship game on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.