The Lady Sand Devils shut down the Wildcat’s Den in Chinle last weekend bringing home the 3A North Regional gold for the fourth year in a row.
They gave an outstanding performance throughout the tournament defeating three of the best teams in the region to earn the championship. They defeated Monument Valley 47-20 on Thursday, and Window Rock 65-27 on Friday.
On Saturday, they took on the no. 1 ranked Ganado Hornets for the 3A North region championship.
The Wildcats Den thundered with excitement as the Lady Sand Devil’s and Ganado Hornets appeared. The Lady Sand Devils greeted the Hornets with hugs and smiles as they each radiated class and sportsmanship.
The first quarter belonged to the Sand Devils when they hit the court with full steam with Mikala Benally’s first basket and Myka Taliman’s stunning reverse layup. Defense held the Hornets at bay but soon the Hornets found their rhythm to find an opening to land a three-pointer and soon began racking up points. The Sand Devils used the pressure to find their pace to land several shots in a row taking the lead. The first quarter belonged to the Lady Sand Devils 13-10.
The second quarter became the Battle Royale when Ganado pushed a man-to-man defense pairing 5’9’’ Michelene Coleman against the Sand Devils’ Mikala Benally who stands at 5’4’’. Coleman rejected Benally’s easy layup prompting Benally to step up her skills and outscore the Hornets defense as she came back twice as fierce landing two follow up shots. Lelisa Watson swished a three-pointer to take the lead at halftime 24-17.
After the halftime presentations The Lady Sand Devils jumped the court executing the run and gun play on the Hornets. The Hornets applied pressure to the Sand Devils’ offense but couldn’t shut down their fast break. The Hornets remained scoreless on eight possessions for the first half of the quarter, during which time the Sand Devils built a 13-point lead.
Both teams gave their all in the fourth quarter in a last chance effort to bring home the championship banner. The pressure mounted against both teams as fouls began to litter the court. The Sand Devils broke free of the fouls as Lelisa Watson began to collect bucket after bucket. As the clock began to run out the Hornets got more aggressive, but to no avail.
The Sand Devils played slow-down, four corner offense as the clock ran out, giving the Hornets little chance to catch up. The fans in the Den began to clap as the Lady Sand Devils played out the clock for the win 47–38.
The ever-humble Sand Devils not only took home the victory over no. one ranked Hornets but also earned a place in the state playoffs.
Girls basketball head coach Ryan Whitehorse was proud of his team’s victory and their humble attitude at the buzzer.
“I’m just proud of them,” he said. “They pulled it together at the right moment. They did everything we asked them to do all season. It was a team effort. We knew they were going to win, its what they’ve been [wanting] all season.
“We kept preaching to them and reassuring them at practice and sure enough they were ready for it.”
Whitehorse said his team’s sisterhood mentality provided a lot of good communication on the court.
“Those game situations in the last couple of seconds we had to come together as team and that’s what helps us stay together as we’re going into [state] playoffs next week.”
Mikala Benally, Myka Taliman, and Jaycee Salabiye, Lelisa Watson, each received recognition as all- tourney for the rounds they had outstanding stats in. Lelisa Watson gained the Defensive Player of the Year in 3A North.
The Lady Sand Devils play their first state tournament game in Monument Valley this Friday against the winner of Winslow and Northwest Christian. The game begins at 6:30 p.m.