The Fighting Scouts ended the Lady Sand Devils seven game win streak last Saturday afternoon in Window Rock, 59-56.
Last Tuesday the Sand Devils defeated Payson 61-31, and on Thursday they beat the Winslow Bulldogs at home 61-23.
The Lady Sand Devils that took the court last Thursday night – though comprised of the same individuals – was not the same team that stepped onto the court for their first games last November. They are a team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores and it showed. The November team was inexperienced and they made the mistakes that inexperienced teams make, and it cost them some games. The November team was timid and they lacked on-court leadership.
But the Lady Sand Devils that took the court last week played with confidence and poise. They no longer played timidly. Junior guard Mikala Benally is now a fierce attacker on offense.
The Sand Devils offense runs through their post player Jacey Salabiye. Early in the season the other players had a difficult time getting her the ball underneath. They now seem to have solved that problem, and it was one of the key factors in Thursday’s victory over the Bulldogs.
Point Guard Myka Taliman started Thursday night’s scoring deluge when she knocked in a three-pointer in the game’s opening minutes. She followed this up with an assist to Salabiye for two more points on the next possession.
On the next play Benally attacked the basket, pulled back like she had second thoughts, which was enough to get her opponent to relax her guard. Benally juked back inside and banked one off the backboard for two. Three minutes into the game and the Sand Devils’ offense is flowing. The Sand Devils led 10-2.
Amy Yellowman hit a three pointer and then it was back to the Salabiye offense with assists from Benally and LeLisa Watson. The Sand Devils led 17-4 at the end of the first quarter.
The Sand Devils increased the tempo and intensity of their offense in the second quarter which left the Bulldogs looking stunned and confused. They held a commanding 40-12 lead at halftime.
With a commanding lead the Sand Devils moved into a four-corners slow down offense, with players weaving back and forth at the top of the court off of picks at the top of the court, and other players sliding in the back door beneath the basket. The ball handlers kept possession of the ball up top until one of the players underneath broke free. It had great results. They led 55-19 at the end of the third quarter.
They repeated the four-corner offense in the fourth quarter but with several new players in off the bench for the Sand Devils. The final score was Sand Devils 61-Bulldogs 23.
“Everything is finally coming together as a team. Everything is clicking right now,” said girls basketball head coach Ryan Whitehorse. “All season long the coaching staff has been emphasizing to have each other’s backs. We’re finally doing that now.
“The players on this team have always had talent, they just needed more experience. They’re now playing like an experienced team.”