A Page vs. Tuba city always brings with it a lot of extra passion, pumped players, rowdy fans that raises the energy level a few thousand megawatts.
Tuesday night’s matchup was no different as the Lady Sand Devils took to the hardwood to face their old rivals the Tuba City Warriors.
Page’s Mikala Benally took charge in the game’s opening minutes, scoring their first six points.
“Mikala is our most aggressive player,” said girls basketball coach Ryan Whitehorse. “She’s got an offensive mindset. She’s usually the first one to attack.”
The Sand Devils aggressive offense may have started with Benally but it certainly didn’t end with her. LeLisa Watson and Jacey Salabiye were soon on the board as well.
Meagan Fuller came into the game with two minutes left in the first quarter. Fuller had transferred to American Leadership Academy earlier in the season, then moved back to Page. Because of the transfer she was ineligible to play for the first half of the season.
The Sand Devils led eleven to six at the end of the first quarter, and 22 to 15 at halftime. They maintained a three to seven point lead over the Warriors throughout the first six minutes of the
Conditioning played a large role in Tuesday night’s victory. With two minutes remaining in the third the Warriors were visibly tired; the Sand Devils were not.
For the rest of the quarter the Sand Devils were a step or two quicker than their opponents, which allowed them to penetrate open lanes for floaters, and find their teammates cutting to the back door. It also led to defensive steals by Myka Taliman and Emma Yazzie, which they converted into fast break points. The Sand Devils added 13 points in the third quarter’s final minutes increasing their lead 35-24 going into the final quarter.
With five minutes left in the game Coach Whitehorse had his team play a slow-down offense to eat up the remaining time. The Sand Devils kept the ball out front, passing player to player, in a circular pattern. With all the players moving in a circular pattern, sooner or later one of them became open under the basket, which led to several backdoor passes and easy layups.
Conditioning is something Coach Whitehorse works on all season long, with these results in mind.
“We make them play defensively, get them running and keep them running, which will tire them out, and allow us to score off their mistakes,” said Coach Whitehorse.
The Sand Devils easily defeated the Warriors 5 to 36.
At the season’s midway point the Lady Sand Devils have improved greatly since the early season. They’re a team comprised mostly of freshmen, sophomores and juniors. They now appear much more mature and comfortable on the court in front of rowdy fans.
“We’ve become a lot more patient than we were at the beginning of the season,” said Coach Whitehorse.
Turnovers plagued the Sand Devils early in the season and they’ve improved on that front as well. Early in the season they averaged about 20 turnovers a game and they’ve now reduced that to about a dozen turnovers per game.
Senior LeLisa Watson led all scorers with 13 points. Jacey Salabiye had 11. Ashlyn Adakai, Mikala Benally and Myka Taliman each had six, and newly returned Meagan Fuller contributed four points.