Holiday Classic a steep learning curve for Lady Sand Devils

Lady Sand Devils play the Kirtland Central Broncos during the Holiday Classic on Saturday.

The Lady Sand Devils lost two out of three games last weekend at the Holiday Classic. They defeated the Saguaro Sabercats 57-41 in the tournament’s opening round but lost to the Liberty Patriots 44-26 in the second round. 

The Sand Devils played for the third place spot Saturday against the Kirtland Central Broncos and lost 46-21. The Sand Devils began the season with a win over Show Low, which brings their season record to 2-2.

The Broncos jumped out to 8-0 lead Saturday and controlled the tempo and character of the game. 

Jade Reid got the first points on the board for the Sand Devils, with three and a half minutes off the clock, which was followed by two more from Miquedah Taliman, reducing the Broncos lead to four. Two possessions later, Taliman slashed down the baseline and dished to a player in the paint who banked it in and drew the foul in the process. After knocking in the free throw, the Sand Devils trailed 11-7, which was the same score when the quarter ended a minute later. 

The Sand Devils offense went completely cold in the second quarter. They had trouble passing the ball and rebounding. They added just one point – a free throw with 20 seconds left – in the second quarter, while the Broncos increased their score to 24.

The Sand Devils offense regained some productivity in the third quarter, adding six more points, but the Broncos’ offense continued to outpace them, adding 17 points of its own. 

The final score read Kirtland Central 44, Page 26. 

In other tournament news, both Tuba City and Monument Valley lost in the first round and played each other in the second round. Monument Valley won and went on to defeat Dixie High School in the third round to win consolation.

Despite the two losses, Lady Sand Devils Head Coach Celeste Claw was happy with her team’s overall performance. 

“Overall, the girls had some really great executions,” said Coach Claw. “We played at our level most of the time.”

Coach Claw was happy with the way her team showed consistency on offense and defense throughout most of the tournament.

Coach Claw said the tournament experience went a long way to help her players better understand their individual roles on the team, and to play those roles. 

“Playing against three really great teams last week was a great experience for us,” said Coach Claw. “We learned a lot. We will definitely take that game film and break it up bit by bit and figure out areas we need to work on.”

The Holiday Classic was a steep learning curve for the Lady Sand Devils, and Coach Claw said she expects the same when the team plays in the Epic New Year’s Eve Classic in Phoenix later this month. 

Coach Claw said the early part of the season isn’t about racking up wins but racking up experience.

“The opportunity to play against really great teams at these tournaments really accelerates our execution and our basketball IQ,” she said. 

The Lady Sand Devils played Winslow Tuesday night, after this paper went to press. Between now and the Epic New Year’s Eve Classic, the Lady Sand Devils have one more game. They host Window Rock on Dec. 18.

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