Lady Sand Devils edged out in regional championship

Steven Law, Special to the Chronicle
Posted 2/15/24

FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz. – The Window Rock Lady Scouts narrowly beat out the Lady Sand Devils in the regional championship game Saturday by a score of 57 to 51.

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Lady Sand Devils edged out in regional championship


FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz. – The Window Rock Lady Scouts narrowly beat out the Lady Sand Devils in the regional championship game Saturday by a score of 57 to 51. No. 1 seeded Page, who entered the tournament riding an 11-game win streak, had a first-round bye. They defeated the Chinle Wildcats in the second round to advance to the championship game.

On paper, the Lady Sand Devils and the Lady Fighting Scouts are evenly matched. The Fighting Scouts came into the regional tournament 10-2 in the 3A North, and 24-4 overall. The Lady Sand Devils came into the tournament 10-3 in the 3A North, and 18-5 overall.

The biggest difference between the two teams is that Window Rock depends on three players for the bulk of its offense (Melicia Nelson, Devae Willie and Jada Brown), whereas Page spreads its scoring evenly throughout seven or eight players.

With two evenly matched teams, the first quarter played out the way fans would expect, with both teams trading baskets and the lead. The first quarter saw five lead changes and three ties, ending with the teams tied at 12. But the Fighting Scouts offense went dead cold in the second quarter and scored a single basket. The Sand Devils offense continued as it had been in the first, scoring an additional 12 points in the second quarter. They took a commanding 24 to 14 lead with them into the half.

But the Fighting Scouts’ leading scorers, Nelson and Brown, got their groove back in the third quarter, scoring 22 points to Page’s 12. Eight of Window Rock’s third-quarter points came from Nelson, and eight from Willie.

Window Rock’s Nelson absolutely dominated the fourth quarter. She scored 13 points, five of which came from the free-throw line. She got help from her teammates, Brown and Kourtney Bitselley.

For the first time since the first quarter, Window Rock regained the lead (50 to 49) off a Nelson field goal with 2:05 left in the game. Bitselley dropped in a 3-pointer on the next possession.

The final score read Sand Devils 51, Fighting Scouts 57.

The Lady Sand Devils enter the state championship tournament this week. They have a first-round bye, and will play the winner of Payson and Ganado on Feb. 16. The game will be played at Page High School.

Boys basketball

No. 2 ranked Page defeated No. 7 ranked Window 55 to 52 in the opening round of the 3A North Regional Tournament. The Sand Devils leading scorer, Tyree Stingley, was the game’s leading scorer with 34 of this team’s 55 points.

But the boys team came up short in the semi-finals, losing 36 to 44 to Monument Valley.

The Sand Devils will have a chance to avenge their loss against Monument Valley in the opening round of the state championship tournament. The Sand Devils will take on the Mustangs for the fourth time this season on Feb. 14. Page has defeated Monument Valley two out of the three times they have played this year.

Boys wrestling

The Sand Devils wrestling team traveled to Winslow last weekend, where they competed in the sectional tournament, which is the qualifier for state.

Nine out of its 12 wrestlers qualified for the state tournament, which takes place this weekend in Phoenix at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. Two Sand Devil wrestlers took first place at sectionals: Connor Peterson (120) and Ian Yellowhair (190).

“Connor and Ian dominated,” said head wrestling coach Kyran Keisling. “It was cool to watch and validate the work they put in during the off season.”

As a team, the Sand Devils finished in second place behind St. Johns.

“It was Matt Penrod and my 13th time getting second place at sectionals,” Keisling joked. “In all that time, we’ve never taken first. Always a bride’s maid, never a bride.”

Despite coming in as the runner-up, Keisling is pretty happy with how his team performed.

“We did about as expected,” said Keisling. “We had some exceptionally good performances but also found ourselves in some rough spots. They had some good upsets and performances. Overall, they did us proud.”

With all but one tournament in the books, Keisling and Penrod are concentrating on preparing for this weekend’s state tournament.

“Last year, we also lost to St. Johns in the sectional tournament and beat them at state,” said Keisling. “That’s what the end goal is this year, too. They are two totally different tournaments. We want to come home from state with medals hanging on our neck.”

Girls wrestling

The female wrestlers held its sectional tournament in Payson last Tuesday. Page took six She Devils to the tournament, and they all did very well.

As a team they finished in fifth place, quite impressive for having only six wrestlers.

Trina Bennett was section champ and qualified for state. Ilina Robbins placed second and qualified for state. Mya Tsinninjinnie placed third and qualified for state. Logan Rivers placed third and qualified for state.