Class 3A state tournament

Lady Chieftains reach the final four

By Quentin Jodie
and Nicole Baker
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, March 10, 2011

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The Shiprock Lady Chieftains are once again a final four team.

Shiprock came into the Class 3A girls' state tournament as the No. 6 seed, but the Chieftains proved the seeding committee wrong with a 50-39 win over No. 14 Santa Fe St. Michael's in their quarterfinal match-up played at the Pit on Tuesday.

Actually, the seeding didn't follow the script as St. Michael's came into the game after they upset No. 3 Las Vegas Robertson, 52-32, last Friday. Yet they still gave the Chieftains a tough time despite their low seed.

"I thought the girls played hard," Shiprock coach Brady Rivers said. "One thing we talked about is playing hard and honestly I thought our technique was off today, but I told the girls sometimes your technique will be off, but the girls did a good job of playing hard."

They had to play hard as St. Michael's got a double-double from 6-foot guard and post Alexa Chavez as she finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Still, the Chieftains overcame that thanks to making the necessary adjustments on defense.

"Normally we have played a lot of match-up zone," Rivers said, "but today we decided that we were going to play man-to-man the whole game and we were going to wear them down."

Brady said he felt that if the Chieftains could make the Cardinals' post Chavez and point guard Brittany Quintana run, the outcome would favor the Chieftains as Brady substituted freely.

"We knew they had an outstanding guard," said Rivers of Quintana. "We wanted to make her run, along with their post player and we had hoped that it would take its toll over the course of the game.

"And going into the fourth quarter I felt good," he added. "We were up five or seven points, but I felt good that we were the fresh team. We were ready to run and they were starting to break down."

Eventually that scheme worked even though Chavez got St. Mike's going with 6 points in the opening quarter for an 8-7 cushion with 1:03 left. Despite a trey from Shiprock's Ashley John, the Lady Cardinals seized an 11-10 lead heading in the second.

In that quarter, St. Mike's Chavez added five more points, but Shiprock kept the entire St. Mike's team in check as they outscored their opponents, 14 to 7.

For the Chieftains, five different players scored with John putting in five of her team-high 14 points for a 26-18 lead at the halftime break.

In the third, neither team had a clear advantage as Shiprock went up 32-25 on a three-point shot by John as fellow teammate and leading scorer Haley Taliman struggled and finished with four points and five rebounds.

"Haley has been doing really good, but in this game she kind of struggled," John said. "I really enjoy playing with her because she is like a sister to me."

With one quarter left to play, the Chieftains stayed the course, dictated the pace of the game and increased the third quarter lead to 46-34 on a basket by Ashley Dailey, who ended up with seven points behind John and Summer Tallbull, who put in 12 points and had eight rebounds.

The Lady Chieftains face No. 2 Portales in the semifinals at 8 a.m. today at the Pit. Portales picked up a 45-23 win over Ruidoso on Tuesday.

"I want the girls to enjoy this win before we think about Portales," Brady said. "They have been strong for awhile and last year they beat us down in Clovis.

"It's going to be a fun game and we're going to make some adjustments," he added.

Shiprock 56, Pojoaque 40

In the first round of the state tournament last Friday, the Lady Chieftains continued a tradition against Pojoaque.

After the seniors played their final home game at the Chieftain Pit, they came out on the floor and as a group kissed their home court goodbye.

It's not goodbye for the season though.

Just like the last couple of years, the Lady Chieftains aren't ending their season early. After winning the District 1-3A crown the previous weekend, to achieve one of their team goals, the Lady Chieftains continuing on as a final four team.

In a passing of the torch, senior point-guard Ashley Dailey teamed up with freshman Ashley John to lead the No. 6 Lady Chieftains past No. 11 Pojoaque, 56-40, last Friday night.

"It feels great coming out here my senior year and winning our first state tournament game, just like the last couple of years," said Dailey, who finished with 6 points including a couple of big layups that kept the Lady Chieftains going.

"This is the cherry on top," she added. "Everything that has happened in the last two weeks has only made us stronger. It has bonded us and brought us together."

John led all scorers with 18 points against Pojoaque.

"I've always wanted to play on the (UNM) Pit floor," said John. "Now that I'm at this level I'm accomplishing that dream. I actually didn't really expect to be on varsity.

"It has been really awesome playing with the seniors," John said, adding that the team really wanted to get these wins for the seniors.

After the first quarter, however, Pojoaque had the definite advantage with a 16-14 lead behind back-to-back treys from Kiana Vigil, in spite of a huge 8 points from John that helped Shiprock stay close.

Shiprock rallied in the second quarter behind 5 points from both Hailey Taliman and Samantha Peters.

The Lady Chieftains continued to press their advantage in the third, opening with a 7-0 run, including five points from John. Shiprock held an 11-point lead, 39-28, going into the final period.

"This win is pretty big for us," John said. "When we get a lead, we really start to pick up the momentum and intensity."

Pojoaque, however, refused to go quietly into the night. Despite the momentum, the Lady Chieftains got off to a slow start in the final period and Pojoaque took advantage and with just over three minutes to go in the game, the Lady Elks had made it a two-possession, or 4-point, game.

"We talked a lot about playing consistent," said Lady Chieftains coach Brady Rivers. "Our defense gave it their all. We knew Pojoaque was going to press. We just hung in there. The big key for us was handing their press early and getting down there and putting points on the board."

Enter Tyra Brown and Summer Tallbull for the Lady Chieftains. The duo teamed up defensively, corralling loose balls and steals, to spark the Chieftains into a 14-0 run that stretched until the final seven seconds.

"Brown came in and went on a tear," said Rivers. "She really stepped it up for us."

It almost lasted the entire three minutes, but Pojoaque's Alexandria Baca was fouled going to the basket at the seven-second mark and made both of the charity shots.

"We tend to have a good running streak," Dailey said of the win. "We just have to not let down. Playing for the blue trophy is going to take a lot of team effort."

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