Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

3A Girls Basketball Previews: Winslow, Holbrook, MV teams to watch

November 14, 2018 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

3A Girls Basketball Previews:

Every year it's a dogfight for top honors in the 3A North and 3A East Regions in girl's basketball.

This year will be no different. Last year, 3A North Region champion, Page Lady Sand Devils raced to the 3A State Championship. Teams from the North and East Regions will be hungry with hopes of holding the golden ball as State Champions in February at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Winslow Lady Bulldogs

Winslow head coach Jerron Jordan returns eight players, including three players who earned post season laurels.

Sophomores returning for Winslow are guard Kristin Wagner and post Sierra Singer. Leading the junior class is All-Region guard Brianna Little. Juniors joining her are post Aliyahna Voegele and post Onajae Betoney. Senior All-State and All-Region post Justine Butterfield, All-Region guard Kelli Mitchell and guard Eushawna Nodestine are strong at their respective positions.

Adding depth for the Lady Bulldogs are first-year varsity players freshman guard Kylie Begay, junior post Andrea Willeto, senior post Lacey Garrett and senior guard Autumn Qumawunu.

Jordan said winning the region and state championship outright will be challenging. He set the Lady Bulldogs' expectations and goals high this year.

"My team expects to win the 3A East Region and the 3A State Championship," he said. "My team must win the important East Region games and Freedom games in order to get at state tournament berth."

Jordan added, "Holbrook and my team (Winslow) will be strong in the East Region. For the state, Monument Valley, Page, (Tucson) Sabino and my team (Winslow) will be contending for the state championship."

Jordan, who guided the Lady Bulldogs to a 16-14 overall record last year, said his schedule, which includes Freedom games, tournaments and region games, is strong and tough. Last year Winslow completed the year 16-14.

"It (schedule) is the most competitive schedule that my team has ever played during my tenure at Winslow High School," Jordan said. "We open up with 4A Flagstaff. Then we play the 3A defending State Champion Page. Next, my team plays in the Pepsi Tournament at Flagstaff. Follwing that, my team plays every 3A North team at least once. Then my team plays in the Chandler Prep Tournament over Christmas break. Finally, my team concludes with region games, prior to the state tournament."

Holbrook Lady Roadrunners

Year-after-year, Holbrook Lady Roadrunners is a serious contender for top honors in the 3A Region and state tournament, under head coach Greg Perkins.

Perkins said the Lady Roadrunners are young this year, especially the bench.

"Despite our inexperience, we still expect to compete for a region title and advance into the deeper rounds of the state tournament," Perkins said. "It will take some time and patience to get this year's team all on the same page. With our very difficult beginning schedule, we will have some growing pains."

He said to make its 11th consecutive trip to the state tournament, Holbrook, just like everyone else, will have to win crucial games, to go along with its tough schedule.

"We play five 3A North team games," Perkins said. "We play Chinle twice, Window Rock twice and Ganado once. We will also play Valley Sanders, (22-3), last year in 2A. We also will see a Fountain Hills team, with their complete varsity team returning from last season."

Perkins continued, "Along with our tough East Region schedule of Winslow, who should be favored to win the region and a much improved Snowflake and Blue Ridge teams, along with good Payson and Show Low clubs. We will be playing in the Round Valley Tournament, along with joining 70-plus teams in the Chandler Prep Tournament over Christmas holiday."

Holbook completed the season last year 24-7 overall and 9-1 in 3A East Region. The Lady Roadrunners won the regular season region title and region tournament championship last year.

"We were beaten by Monument Valley in the second round of the state tournament lasr year," Perkins said. "Monument Valley head coach Jason Franklin does a great job with his girls."

Perkins said Winslow is the team to beat in the 3A East Region, due to the Lady Bulldogs returning its five starters from last year's team.

"Head coach Jerron Jordan does a great job of coaching and he has all five of his starters returning from last year," Perkins said. "There will not be any easy games in the East Region for us this year. We are young and I am hoping by the time we face region teams in January, we can get most of our youth on the same page as our veterans."

Perkins said all six teams in the 3A North are solid.

"MV (Monument Valley) returns the most players," he said. "Page only lost two key players. Ganado is very tough, as is Chinle and Window Rock, as well as Tuba City. Once again, the overall 3A power lies in the North Region. (Tucson) Sabino, with the transfer of Division I prospect, Dorrosh girl, will be tough for anyone to beat since they only lost to Window Rock last year by two points, without her."

Two-time 3A East Region Player of the Year and First Team All-State junior guard Madison Chappell leads the returning players for the Lady Roadrunners.

Also returning are senior guard Megan Cummings, senior guard Tristen Ambrose, senior guard Shilaine Gorman, junior forward Tyleashia Yazzie, sophomore forward Matehya Aberle, junior guard Desirae Bain, sophomore guard Joyce Thomas, sophomore guard Micah Joe, freshman guard Samanthay Billie, freshman guard Talynn Nez and freshman guard Terry Nez.

Monument Valley Lady Mustangs

Monument Valley Lady Mustangs return four starters, including three 3A North All-Region players from last year's 16-16 team that finished as state runner-up as a No. 12 state tournament seed.

Returning starters are senior guard First Team All-Region and Second Team All-Stater Tayla Nez, senior guard/forward Second Team All-Region and Honorable Mention All-Stater Briana Gillis, senior guard Honorable Mention Jazlyn Lane and sophomore guard/forward Adriana Sheppard.

Returning players include senior forward Michelle Sullivan, senior guard Kaitlyn Johnson, junior guard Mikayla Yazzie, sophomore guard Erynne Sells and junior guard Kaylee Yazzie.

First-year varsity players are senior forward Helen Salt, senior forward Queenssa Bedonie, freshman guard Skylynn Flores, freshman guard/forward Brandi Gillis and freshman guard Shree Yazzie.

Monument Valley head coach Jason Franklin said experience is a plus for the Lady Mustangs.

"We finished the season on a good run last year." Franklin said. "We have several players and fourth and fifth of our starting five coming back from last season to be able to challenge in our region this year. We hope to put ourselves in good position to make a strong push toward the state title game."

Franklin said it will take some time for the first-year varsity players to adapt to his system.

"It's going to take us learning and growing with the new group that we've added to our returning bunch," Franklin said. "If we can learn how to play well together, we do have the talent and experience this year to not only earn a spot in the state tournament, but to also earn our way into the Final Four. If we can get along, stay focused on our common goals and learn to play our roles and sacrifice for each other, then we expect to have a strong team and make a good showing."

Franklin said the Lady Mustangs are playing a challenging Freedom game schedule and tournaments.

"The Freedom games that we're excited about this year are teams that have added that we don't get to see too often," Franklin explained. "These are proven teams with a proven history. We know they'll prepare us well for the post season."

Three teams Monument Valley added to its regular season schedule are Valley Sanders on December 14, Kirtland Central (New Mexico) on December 18 and Flagstaff on January 26.

The two tournaments the Lady Mustangs will participate in are Page Holiday Classic, November 29 - December 1, and Chandler Prep Tournament, December 27 - 29. Franklin believes the 3A North Region will be strong.

"Based on what we saw this summer, we know that Tuba City and Page will be strong," Franklin noted. "We know that 3A North Region is girls' high school basketball at its best. Each program knows all of the others so well. These girls have been playing against each other since they were in the pee wee ranks. So we are well aware of the fact that no team has a clear advantage. Any program can beat another on any given night. It's going to be a difficult grind. We believe we're ready. We're excited to take on the challenge."