Red Mesa uses fourth-quarter surge to make title game

Quentin Jodie
6 Min Read


A fourth-quarter outburst put the Red Mesa girls basketball team in the finals of the Rehoboth Christian tournament.

The Arizona team outpointed Tsé Yi’ Gai 20 to 5 en route to a 55-39 win on Friday night. In the eight-team tournament, Red Mesa will play Menaul High School for the title at 3:30 p.m. today. The Albuquerque private school withstood a second-half rally from Zuni and escaped with a 50-42 triumph in the other semis.

“We’re going to play them man-to-man,” Red Mesa coach Sandy Benally said of Menaul. “Hopefully, we’ll be ready for them. If we can get going, we shouldn’t struggle.”

In the late game, Red Mesa received a pair of timely threes from junior Tianna Bradley and senior Nizhoni Hatalie to ignite its run.

That late surge came about with Benally resting his starters at the tail end of the third quarter as Tsé Yi Gai trailed 35-34 heading into the fourth.

“We kind of struggled, and we had a hard start,” the Red Mesa coach said. “I told the girls, let’s pick it up, and it just kicked in right there. We got some rebound, and we got some fastbreaks.”

Tsé Yi’ Gai was held to only two baskets in that final quarter, with senior Brienna Toledo hitting a trey while junior Aiyanna Trujillo added a two-point shot.

“They basically outrebounded us, and they had better shooting,” Tsé Yi’ Gai coach Paul Wilkie said. “Usually, the focus is on our layups, transitions, and/or press, but all in all, they were better than us.

“They hit some nice threes, and they have two good shooters,” he added. “But I’m proud for both teams. It’s a lot of fun.”

Freshman Tracea Negale led Tsé Yi’ Gai with 15 points, while Toledo added 14. The two guards combined for five treys, with Toledo hitting three.

For Red Mesa, Hatalie finished with 13 points; Bradley chipped in 12, and Delitah Kee and Shyla Pipkin helped with nine each.

In the earlier game, Menaul scored the game’s first 16 points as Zuni was held scoreless for nearly 13 minutes.

“We prepped for them, and we were ready for them,” Menaul coach Felecia Boatman said of Zuni. “I think they went a minute, a minute-and-half in their offense, and our defense was literally like a drill, so that was beautiful to watch.

“We knew they were going to be tough, and we knew they were going to make hard cuts to the basket, so it was good that my kids could take what they learned and apply it.”

Menaul led 23-10 at the break, and the Lady Panthers pushed that to 27-10 following a trey by senior forward Eliana Ortiz with 7:14 left in the third stanza.

However, the last six minutes of the quarter was all Zuni as the Lady T-Birds got a spark from senior guard Takai Martinez, who poured in 10 of her team’s best 16 points.

Martinez closed the quarter with back-to-back treys that pulled Zuni within 36-33 heading into the fourth.

The T-Birds tied the contest two times at 38-all and 40-40, but they could not get over the hump as Menaul pulled away by hitting 6-of-12 free throws late in the game.

“They basically won the game off free throws,” Zuni coach Rhonan Begay said. “We just fouled them too much late in the game and that is where they ran up the score up on us.”

Zuni rallied by making 12 of its last 26 shots, only to come short. In the opening half, the T-Birds missed its first 15 before a putback from senior forward Kealani Kaamasee put them on the scoreboard at the 3:11 mark of the second quarter.

“We just didn’t gel in that first half,” Begay said. “I think everybody kind of just stepped back from the intensity of the game. Once we found it, we pretty much played on the same level as they did.”

Martinez was the lone Zuni player in double figures as senior LeDean Blackhair chipped in nine.

Navajo Times | Quentin Jodie
Zuni Lady T-Bird LeDean Blackhair puts up a three-point shot against the Menaul Lady Panthers on Friday at the Rehoboth girls basketball tournament.

For Menaul, senior guard Charli Boatman finished with a game-high 17 points, including 10 that came in the second period. Ortiz added 15, and senior post Mikayla Sierra helped with 11.

At 11 a.m., host Rehoboth will play Evangel Christian Academy for seventh place, followed by the consolation championship game between Pine Hill and Ramah at 12:30 p.m.

Zuni tangles with Tsé Yi’ Gai for third place at 2 p.m.

Quentin Jodie Basketball,News

2024-01-13 18:40:19 , Navajo Times

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