Sand Devils net two big wins

Page senior guard Jordan Varner (11) looks to pass the ball over a Monument Valley defender in the third quarter during a rivalry game on Saturday night inside the Sand Devils gymnasium in Page, Arizona. Photo by Krista Allen/Lake Powell Chronicle.

By Steven Law
Special to the Chronicle

PAGE – The Page Sand Devils finished off a busy week of play with a game against Monument Valley on Saturday evening.

The Sand Devils scored on the game’s opening play: a designed tap from junior post Stuart Sandall to junior point guard Jonah Holiday on the tipoff. Senior guard Gabe Gomez scored on the Sand Devils next possession, followed by back-to-back baskets from Sandall.

Senior guard Jordan Varner got his first points of the game halfway through the quarter to bring the Sand Devils back to within 4 points. Jonah Holiday cut the deficit to two on a beautifully designed inbound pass from beneath their own basket. Gomez, slashing to the basket with the ball drew three Mustang defenders to him. He dished it off to junior guard Trent Holiday who scored and was fouled in the process. After hitting the free throw, the Sand Devils had retaken the lead 16-14, as the first quarter ended.

The Mustangs came thundering back in the first 6 minutes of the second quarter, outscoring the Sand Devils 12-2, building themselves an 8-point lead. The Sand Devils battled back in the quarter’s final two minutes. Sophomore guard Maurice Smith broke the Sand Devils scoring slump when he knocked in two free-throws. Sandall then hit two more free-throws on the Sand Devils next possession. Trent Holiday then had back-to-back steals, and he was fouled returning the ball to the Mustang’s goal. He hit three of his four free-throws which narrowed the score to 23-26.
With 20 seconds left in the first half, junior guard Robert Smith hit his first 3-pointer of the game tying the game at 26. The Mustangs scored one last time as time expired and took a 28-26 lead at halftime.

The third quarter really belonged to senior Jordan Varner who scored his first basket of the quarter on a nice drive off the baseline. He followed that up with a steal and a layup, and on the next play, drove up the center of the paint between two defenders and dropped in a nifty floater. Two plays later Varner hit a 3-pointer. The Sand Devils outscored the Mustangs 12-8 in the third quarter and Varner accounted for 9 of the 12. They started the fourth quarter leading 38-36.

Robert Smith, who had been off with his 3-point shots, warmed up in the fourth quarter hitting three, 3-point shots, which helped the Sand Devils finally pull away from the pesky Mustangs.
The most exciting play of the game also came in the fourth quarter. The Sand Devils stole the ball and ran it back down the court. Gomez brought the ball down the court’s right side and dished it over to Sandall who finished with a highlight reel dunk.

The Sand Devils went on to win 56-44 and move to 14-1 on the season.

Lady Sand Devils defense continue to dominate

The Lady Sand Devils added three more wins last week defeating Chinle 50-41 on Tuesday, Pinon 50-31 Thursday, and Monument Valley 48-29 Saturday.

The team is now 13-2 overall, and 2-0 in section play.

It took the Sand Devils offense a little while to get warmed up on Saturday. The Monument Valley Mustangs scored on 6 of their first 9 possessions and took an early 13-3 lead. At that point the Lady Sand Devils made some crucial adjustments on both offense and defense. Part of that adjustment was breaking the Mustangs full-court press while increasing their own pressure against the Mustang guards. The Lady Sand Devils were finally able to find creases in the Mustang pressure the last 3 minutes of the quarter and trailed only 13-9 as the quarter ended.   

Page senior forward Camryn Nockideneh hit two free-throws in the second quarter’s opening seconds and tied the game at 13. The Sand Devils took the lead for the first time in the game when Page junior guard Emma Yazzie stole the ball and returned it for the basket with 4:40 remaining in the second quarter.  The rest of the second quarter belonged to the Lady Sand Devils as they built a 30-16 at halftime lead.

Lady Sand Devils pressure continued to dominate in the third quarter as the Mustangs were only able to score 2 points. The lead increased to twenty as the quarter ended with the score of 38-18.
Entering the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead, girls basketball head coach Ryan Whitehorse took advantage of the large lead to get his bench players some valuable minutes. When it was all said and done the Lady Sand Devils defeated the Mustangs 48-29.

 “We knew how aggressive Monument Valley would be, and we weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be,” Whitehorse said on Monday. “It led to a lot of turnovers in the first quarter.”
With the regular season now half over, Whitehorse said his team is where they should be defensively but would like to see more progress offensively before the postseason.

 “Defensively we’re fine, but we need to put four quarters of offense together,” Whitehorse said.
One of Whitehorse’s priorities will be getting his bench players more game time experience. “The deeper we get into the playoffs, the more we’re going to need that experience from them,” he added.

Whitehorse expects his greatest competition to come from Ganado (17-1), Tuba City 11-5), and Window Rock (12-3).

The Sand Devils next four games are on the road, starting this Thursday against Tuba City. Their next home game is on Jan. 28 against Tuba City.