The Page Sand Devils dominated home court Friday night when the Pinon Eagles met them for a non-conference game. The crowd was treated to a beautiful rendition of the Nation Anthem sung in Navajo by Calla Smith to open the game.
The Eagles arrived with only seven players and took to the court with high energy. The game turned out to be a game of sheer stamina and they showed great sportsmanship with the odds stacked heavily against them.
The Eagles gained the first possession that resulted in the first point of the game. The Sand Devils responded with their fast break gangbuster style. The Eagles struggled to keep up. They utilized the lob pass which worked in their favor when they were able to move the ball down court. Meanwhile the Sand Devils dominated the three-point line to take the lead in the first quarter 23-10.
In the second quarter Head Coach Russ Skubal started to send in the second string players to gain some experience against the determined Eagles. With the more experienced Sand Devils on the bench the new players began to hone their skills turning the game into an intense show of stamina.
In the midst of the high energy Dainian Sloan and Dillion Nez Tsosie found openings to make steals to take the ball back to the hoop. Both teams gained another 14 points at the half but the Sand Devils retained the lead 37-24.
After the half Justin Salabiye, known for his signature steals, found his mojo when he easily worked the open passes of the Eagles to gain possession and take the ball to the hoop for an open layup. The Eagles responded with a never give up attitude and once again began to utilize the lob pass on offense.
The Sand Devils always looked for ways to incorporate their backdoor pass to find easy lay ups.
Part way through the third quarter high energy of the Eagles began to dissipate and they added only five points to their score during the quarter. Meanwhile the Sand Devils, even with replacements on the court, added another 22 points.
The fourth quarter was the highlight of the night when the Eagle’s rotated the seven players to maintain their “Never Quit” attitude. Coach Skubal, with three minutes left on the clock, gave freshman Maurice Smith a chance to come off the bench to get a couple of minutes. Smith, on his second possession of the ball, landed a beautiful three-point swish that brought the crowd to their feet. Less than a minute later on his fourth possession of the ball, he hit another three-point swish that the crowd went crazy over. The Eagles ran out of steam and could not find the hoop. The Sand Devils finished the game with a whopping score of 77-29.
“We did a good job in the first quarter then we kind of got complacent with the lead. In the third we did a better job because they finally listened to the scouting report.” said Coach Skubal. “Pinion has a shorter roster because it’s a smaller school but that left handed shooter was [the shooter to look for], he made the first shot.”
When asked about Smith’s surprise three-point shots, “I put Maurice in because he broke his foot and we wanted to get the rust off. I knew he was going to make those shots. I wasn’t surprised.” Coach Skubal adds he has known Smith since seventh grade.
The Sand Devils now have an overall 6-2 record. They will play in the Striking Eagle Invite during Christmas break. Their next home game is Friday, Jan. 4 against Sedona.