Mustangs knock Sand Devils out of playoffs

Steven Law, Special to the Chronicle
Posted 2/21/24

The Sand Devils’ amazing season came to a disappointing end Wednesday night in the first round of the state championship tournament when they lost to Monument Valley 58-61.

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Mustangs knock Sand Devils out of playoffs


The Sand Devils’ amazing season came to a disappointing end Wednesday night in the first round of the state championship tournament when they lost to Monument Valley 58-61.

It was the second time in a week Page lost to the Mustangs. Monument Valley beat Page 44-36 a week earlier in the 3A North Tournament.

Wednesday’s game was the fourth time the two teams have met this year, with Page defeating Monument Valley the first two times the teams met.

Wednesday’s game – played at Page High School – was hard fought and edge- of-the-seat electrifying from the first minute to the last. The Sand Devils offense got off to a quick start, with Bryce Williams getting the first bucket, followed by Joseph Benally who added a 3-pointer. But the Mustangs wasted no time getting their own points on the board.

Page played excellent offense throughout the entire game. They made the extra pass, they were patient, they found the open man in the paint. Another big component the Sand Devils employed was getting the ball to their leading scorer, Tyree Stingley, who can hit the 15-foot jump shot, and can slash through defenders like they’re traffic cones as he drives to the basket. Whenever he has the ball he almost always draws in at least one extra defender, which leaves one of his teammates open. This scenario played out repeatedly during the first three quarters. When the defenders collapsed on Stingley, he dished off to Bryce Williams, Talon Herder or Preston Ross under the basket.

Midway through the first quarter the Sand Devils led by seven, and they led 15-9 at the end of the first quarter.

But the Mustangs had played against the Sand Devils three times this year and they knew what adjustments they had to make. And they made them.

Credit has to be given to Monument Valley’s Uzziel Flores, an amazing basketball player who gave a master-class performance that night.

By half time, under the play and courtsmanship of Flores, the Mustangs narrowed Page’s lead down to four. Still, Page kept its lead till the three-minute mark of the third quarter when Monument Valley tied the game at 41. For the next eight minutes of play (halfway into the fourth quarter) Page struggled to hold its lead. The tenacious Mustangs tied the score again at 43, 51 and 54 points. Monument Valley took the lead for the first time in the game (57-56) with exactly two minutes remaining. Over the next 75 seconds, the Sand Devils went up by a point, then the Mustangs went up by a point with 14 seconds left in the game.

    Page basketball head coach Justin Smith called a time-out to draw up his team’s final play. When play resumed, the Sand Devil guards got the ball into the hands of Tyree Stingley, the Sand Devils leading scorer, who drove to the basket and got off a shot. He missed the basket and crashed to the floor. Sand Devils fans cheered as they expected the referee to blow his whistle, and they were stunned when no foul was called. A foul would have sent Tyree to the free throw line with a chance to tie or win the game. Instead, the Mustangs recovered the rebound and took the ball to their end of the floor, where the ball handler was fouled to stop the clock. The Mustang player added two more points from the free throw line.

    The final score read Sand Devils 58, Mustangs 61.

    Wednesday night’s loss was a heartbreaking end to an otherwise amazing season. The Sand Devils finished with an overall regular record of 17-9. They were 11-3 in 3A North.

    “I’m proud of the progress the boys made this year, which is always the goal,” said Coach Smith after the game.

    Next year’s boys’ basketball team will be loaded. They will lose one starting senior – Bryce Williams – but the rest will return.

    “We’ll have a great, experienced base of players to start with next year,” said Coach Smith. “And most of them will have at least two years of varsity experience.”