Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Girls basketball: Page hosts 2018 Lake Powell Holiday Classic

November 27, 2018 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

Fans in northern Arizona love basketball.

Fans will fill the stands and will get a chance to watch outstanding players and quality teams from the states of New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. The 8-team tournament field includes three teams from the 3A North Region, Kayenta Monument Valley, Tuba City and host Page.

Page is hosting its 2018 Girls Lake Powell Holiday Classic, this Thursday through Saturday in its venue.

Joining the field are Kirtland Central and Tohatchi from New Mexico. Bishop Gorman, an outstanding team from Nevada, is in the field as well.

Page girl's basketball head coach Ryan Whitehorse said since his first year, a few years ago, the teams they have invited are more and more competitive every year.

Whitehorse guided Page to the 3A State Championship last year.

"This year just seems better because we have some highly respected programs in the field," Whitehorse said. "Tohatchi (New Mexico) has won some state titles in the last couple years. Kayenta Monument Valley were 3A state runner-ups last year. Tuba City is always competitive and makes state every year. Kirtland Central (New Mexico) won the tournament last year. Bishop Gorman (Nevada) is an elite team among the Las Vegas (Nevada) schools."

The three-day tournament begins Thursday at 3:30 p.m. with Kayenta Monument Valley facing Tohatchi (New Mexico). At 5 p.m., Kirtland Central (New Mexico) takes on Phoenix Maryvale.

Host Page meets Scottsdale Saguaro at 6:30 p.m. The final game of the night has Tuba City squaring off with Bishop Gorman (Nevada) at 8 p.m.

The tournament continues on Friday with a pair of consolation games in the afternoon and two games in the night session.

On Saturday, the seventh/eighth place game is set for 11 a.m., followed by the fifth/sixth place game at 12:30 p.m.

The third/fourth place game is scheduled for 2 p.m. The championship game tips off at 3:30 p.m.

Whitehorse said every year at the end of the holiday classic, he has a chance to start emailing schools, inviting new teams and teams that are interested in returning.

"I like to reach out to teams that we usually won't see during the regular season .... that includes teams out of state," Whitehorse said. "Growing up and playing for Page, I remembered there was always big teams from Las Vegas (Nevada) that were invited and Bishop Gorman was always a good team on both boys and girls teams."

Whitehorse continued, "So now as head coach, I like to try and keep our tournament competitive and reach out to big schools and high quality programs. This gives our team and local teams, like Tuba City and Monument Valley, to play teams that they won't see and to challenge our teams to step up to the challenge."

Whitehorse said for the Lady Sand Devils, the tournament gives them a chance to give back to the community of Page and surrounding area.

"The tournament is a community event and sponsored by two of our local companies, Dixie Ellis' Lower Antelope Canyon and Navajo Generating Station," Whitehorse stated. "It gives the community a chance to come out and watch some competitive and exciting basketball games, while supporting the Sand Devils. We have a great fan base. It's fun for some of the outside schools to come and play in a large gymnasium and experience what it is like playing on the Rez, with large crowds, loud cheering and an up tempo game."

Whitehorse said for the Lady Sand Devils, it gives them a chance to play some competitive teams and see what kind of team Page can be toward the post season.

"I like to throw my girls to the wolves and have them experience what it's like to play against teams that are taller, stronger, faster or more athletic than us," Whitehorse explained. "So they can learn and get better through the process. That is part of the reason we are also going to Las Vegas during Christmas break to play against some big schools. I feel like when we did that last year going out to California, we learned a lot about ourselves and thart helped us peak at the right moment going into regionals and state."

Page opened its regular season on November 20, traveling to Many Farms to meet the Lady Lobos in a freedom game.

Page defeated Many Farms, 52-33. Whitehorse said the Many Farms game gave its team members a chance to get the nerves and jitters out.

"Even though we return 10 players, only four of them actually saw vsrsity minutes last year," Whitehorse said. "We have a young team, so as they gain some experience and learn as the season progresses, we'll be fine. They all work hard and are coachable. Each and every day, they come to practice. Even after last Tuesday's game (against Many Farms), they came in over Thanksgiving break and worked hard and worked on the things that needed fixing."

Whitehorse said the game against Many Farms was filled with turnovers.

"That (turnovers) is one thing we got to do a better job at, taking care of the ball and being patient offensively," Whitehorse noted. "I thought we did a good job defensively. That's what kept us in the game. We need to get better at our rotation. All I ask from the girls each game is to work hard, play disciplined and play fundamental basketball. Once we get a couple more games under our belt, I think we'll find our rotation and the girls will find their identity as a team. That's what these tournaments are for and that's what I'm excited about."