The Lady Sand Devils had a strong finish to the regular season with a 53-47 win over Chinle on Tuesday and a 42-37 win over Tuba City on Thursday.
On Saturday, they finished the regular season with a 55-53 loss at the hands of the Sedona Red Rock Scorpions.
But, as far as losses go, it was a pretty good one.
The Lady Sand Devils couldn’t have asked for a better opponent to play as they prepare to enter the post-season. The Scorpions are a 2A team, and a top 2A team at that. They’re 10-0 in their section and 21-1 overall, the perfect steel on which to sharpen their own already-sharp steel.
The Sand Devils entered the game with an additional setback as their seasoned point guard Myka Taliman missed the game due to illness.
Senior post player Jacey Salabiye had an excellent first quarter. She has averaged 13 points this season, and she had ten of the Sand Devils’ 12 first quarter points.
Meanwhile, the Scorpions’ Liza Westervelt was wreaking havoc against the Sand Devils’ defense, hitting three 3-point shots inthe early minutes of the game.
Her team held a 20-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But, discovering that the Scorpions’ offense channeled through Westervelt, girls basketball head coach Ryan Whitehorse took measures to shut her down, which effectively shut down the Scorpions offense.
The difficult job of guarding one of the best offensive players in Arizona fell to Mikala Benally, who got some double-team help from her team-mates when it was needed.
The adjustment worked. The Scorpions scored only four points in the second quarter, while the Sand Devils scored 15. The Sand Devils retook the lead 25-24 after Salabiye knocked in two free throws. They entered halftime leading 27-24.
The Sand Devils maintained their two possession lead throughout the third quarter with two 3 pointers from Amy Yellowman, field goals from Benally and free throws from Emma Yazzie.
The Lady Sand Devils held a slim 39-36 lead as they entered the fourth quarter. Yellowman and Camryn Nockideneh, hitting layups and jump shots, and steals from Watson and Salabiye, helped their team maintain their two possession advantage deep into the fourth quarter.
But a three point play by the Scorpions’ Toscano (she hit a lay-up, got fouled and hit the free throw) brought the Scorpions to within a single point, with 2:34 remaining in the game.
Scorpions star Liza Westervelt tied the game at 52 when she dropped both free throws with 1:58 remaining, and they’d regain the lead 30 seconds later after hitting two more free throws. Thirty seconds later and they added two more points from the free throw line giving them a valuable two possession lead with exactly a minute left in the game.
Sand Devils junior Meagan Fuller decreased the lead by two when she muscled in a high-traffic layup. She was fouled in the process and took her place at the foul line. She missed the free throw but the missed shot was rebounded by the Sand Devils who, trailing 53-55, had one last shot to tie or win with 15 seconds in the game.
Watson had the cleanest look and took the shot. It rimmed out as time ran out. The Sand Devils lost their final game of the regular season 53-55.
Salabiye had 18 points, Watson had 14, Benally had 11 and Yellowman had eight.