Editor's note: The print edition of this article listed an incorrect date for the Holbrook Roadrunners' final game of the season. It has been corrected in this version. We apologize for any inconvenience.
HOLBROOK - When two of the most winningest boys' coaches from the Arizona 3A North Region meet, unfortunately, there can be only one winner. Coach Steve Scott and his Chinle Wildcats (18-5, 7-3) along with Coach Raul Medoza and his Holbrook Roadrunners (14-11, 4-5) renewed their friendship before the game. Unofficially, they have combined for over 950 career wins and countless minutes of game preparation.
The Wildcats led from the opening sound of the horn and never looked back, winning with a final score of 69 to 46 at the sold out Tony Munoz gymnasium.
"The Wildcats [definitely] came to play," said Coach Mendoza.
The Lady Wildcats (14-10, 3-8) initially set the tone for the evening by winning their third consecutive game with a score of 54-35 over the Lady Roadrunners (2-19, 0-10).
Mendoza and the Roadrunners lost 60-49 to Monument Valley, the current 3A North Region conference leaders while the Scott and the Wildcats were handed a loss on the road courtesy of the Tuba City Warriors, 60-56.
"It's important for us to come out with some emotion and intensity," said Coach Scott. "We had a excellent first quarter," referring to the 8-0 and 13-6 run which gave the Wildcats a commanding lead, 21 to 6.
Mathias Claw played a key role in the first play after the opening tip. He drove the baseline and banked one off the glass. Stanley Tsosie followed with a point and was fouled as he pushed the ball through the paint. He made one of two free throws.
Claw went inside again, driving the lane for a bucket and one - a three-point play. After a steal on the inbound play, Stanley Tsosie found Denzel Harvey under the basket for a score on the initial run.
Tatton Long was fouled with 5:34 remaining in the quarter and made two free throws to get the Roadrunners on the board. The Chinle fans went into a frenzy as Brau Natay hit a trey with 5:11 remaining. Nick Nez, Claw and Harvey all scored and started another run.
With 2:30 left in the quarter, Dustin Gonzales scored the first bucket of the game for the hometown Roadrunners. The Wildcats' Brandon Yazzie answered with two baskets and Long hit his first fieldgoal of the game, as the quarter came to a close with the Wildcats leading by 15 points.
"We got off to a bad start," said Coach Mendoza. "They got a big lead on us and we tried to settle things down [during the break]."
Rex Self found Victor Paz who scored on a lay in for the Roadrunners to open the second period and quiet the crowd.
However, just when the hometown crowd sensed a little momentum change, Kendrick James found Lyle Tsosie with a no-look pass for a score, Daron Brown and Brandon Yazzie also scored to take the Wildcats out to a 20 point lead, 28-8.
Not to be counted out, Holbrook then outscored the Wildcats 17 to 9 within four and half minutes to cut the deficit to 12 points entering the break.
"We got out of our defensive rules; our defensive guards weren't playing within their rules and they gave up some threes in the second quarter," commented Coach Scott. "We got out of position and gave Holbrook really good looks. If you give Holbrook [a chance,] they're like Tuba ... they will hurt you."
Holbrook was able to get good looks as the Roadrunners' Long hit a three ball along with Nicholas Dayea's two treys from downtown and hitting on 2 of 2 threes.
"During the second period, I told the kids to try and cut the lead in half and they did," Mendoza said.
Nez and Natay hit treys of their own for the Wildcats early in the third quarter and Claw added another lay in, regaining an eighteen point lead.
"Every time we made a run they would come back with a three ball, a lay in or something," Coach Mendoza said. "Chinle did a good job, they hit threes when they had to [and] were consistent throughout the game. We weren't able to overcome that."
Both teams turned up the pace of the game with full court pressure, each trying to gain an edge as they traded buckets, threes and lay ins.
"We backed it up some and things started to happen," Coach Scott said. "We got into an inside, outside game."
The Wildcats' Harvey went inside with authority and scored. When he was denied inside the paint, he swung the ball outside to Claw and Nez for scores from the perimeter. Holbrook's Gonzales saw what Harvey was doing and he also went inside with put backs and lay ins.
The Wildcats outscored the Roadrunners, 22 to 17, in the fast-paced third quarter and continue to lead with a score of 59-42.
Coming into the final period, both coaches emptied their benches, giving the kids who "rode the bench for most of the game, a chance to get into the record books, by coming into the game and firing at will," Coach Scott said.
Harvey added six more points in the final quarter for the Wildcats. Lyle Tsosie and Laine Yazzie contributed a bucket apiece to round out the scoring for the night and winning with a final score of 69 to 46.
"I think the kids had a real good time tonight. It was fun to see smiles on their faces. They played hard," Coach Scott continued. "They did what I asked them to do. I'm very pleased with their efforts tonight, especially the kids coming off the bench."
"I have known Raul [Mendoza] for years, his kids never give up. He is an excellent coach," Scott concluded. "I wish him nothing but success. He is a special friend."
"They're consistent, they're consistent," Coach Mendoza said about the Wildcats. "We just keep trying to do what we have to do to get better as a team."
Mathias Claw had a game high 17 points offensively for the Wildcats. Denzel Harvey followed with 16 points, Nick Nez and Brau Natay added nine points each.
Xavier Hadley had 13 points and Dustin Gonzales contributed 10 points for the Roadrunners.
HOLBROOK - The Lady Wildcats continued where they left off, winning on the road Friday night over the Tuba City Lady Warriors with a score of 54-45. Dentria Yazzie and Tia Gorman, scored 11 points each. Taneesha Watson added seven points for the visiting Chinle Lady Wildcats, extending their winning streak to three games with their win over the Holbrook Lady Roadrunners.
The big difference was the opening quarter as the Lady Wildcats were able to hold the Lady Roadrunners scoreless. Six different Lady Wildcats combined for 19 points to lead 19 to 0.
The Lady Wildcats' Cynthia Thomas and Tia Gorman outscored the Lady Roadrunners' Danielle Lowman, Deidra Long and April Lester. The half ended with a 19-point lead for the visitors.
Going into the second half, Chinle Coach Darrell Clauschee told his girls, "We [need to be] working on our turnovers and controlling the boards [and rebounding] better."
Chinle's Denetria Yazzie opened the third quarter with two three balls and added a third during the period along with scoring from Nicole Yazzie, Courtney Norberto, Taneesha Watson, Justina Yazzie, Megan Benally and Gorman, who scored 12 points for the visitors. The Lady Roadrunners' Amanda Chee, Sheria Bille, Long and Lester also scored 12 points as they trailed 48 to 17.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Lady Roadrunners. Chee, Billie, Lowman and Long all scored on three straight steals, forced turnovers and put together two runs midway through the quarter, outscoring the Lady Wildcat reverses, 18 to 6. The Lady Wildcats, however, came into the quarter with a commanding lead and easily hung on to win, 54-35.
Sheria Billie scored 13 points for the Lady Roadrunners, Deidra Long and Amanda Chee added 8 and 7 points respectively.
The Chinle High Wildcats boys and girls teams will finish their regular season play at home. They hosted Window Rock on Jan. 29 and will host Tuba City in the regular season finale on Friday night, Feb. 1.
The Holbrook High Roadrunners boys and girls teams will finish their regular season play on the road. They played at Winslow on Jan. 29 and will play at Window Rock on Saturday, Feb. 1.