Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Page hoopsters hope to repeat as 3A state champions

November 19, 2018 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

The talent is strong in the 3A regions throughout the state that any one of the teams could emerge as 2018-19 girl's basketball state champions.

Defending state champion Page Lady Sand Devils is not going to concede the title they won last year easily. Page is the state champion until some other team wins the title in February.

"Our team's goal this season is just like any other year," Page head coach Ryan Whitehorse said. "We plan on getting back to the state title game and win it all. We have a really good chance of winning this year, but with such a tough region and some talented teams in the east and south, it will definitely be a challenge. Our girls are ready and excited for it."

Eleven players return from last year's 22-9 team. The Lady Sand Devils finished third with a 6-4 record in the tough 3A North Region last year.

Four seniors returning for their final year are point guard Myka Taliman, guard Mikala Benally, guard Meagan Fuller, forward Angel Tsosie and guard Amy Yellowman. Returning for their junior year are guard Ashlyn Adakai and forward Camryn Nockideneh. Sophomores returning include guard Nadya Begay, forward Melinda Calnimptewa, guard Neve Redhair and guard Emma Yazzie.

Taliman and Benally were voted to 3A North All-Region and 3A All-State last year.

The Sand Devils have four new varsity first year players. They are freshman guard Miquedah Taliman, sophomore post Mikaye Begay, sophomore post Torrance Begay and sophomore forward Diana Secody.

"Each game throughout the season, we just want to get better," Whitehorse said. "By the time the post season comes, we will be prepared and hope to make another run. We're going to make sure we stay focused and concentrate on what we do best (defense) and play Sand Devil basketball. Our goal each game is to play fundamentals, stay disciplined and out work our opponents."

Whitehorse said for Page to earn a state tournament berth, the Lady Sand Devils definitely must be competitive in the 3A North Region.

"We know we can win our region, but any team can win on any given night," Whitehorse said. "Last year we had our ups and downs. It took us awhile to get rolling. I think with the team this year, we definitely learned from that and will be ready for each game."

Whitehorse said the Lady Sand Devils have some good freedom games scheduled this year. In addition, he said, the Lady Sand Devils must win the freedom games to earn a good seeding.

"We have a pretty good schedule this year," Whitehorse explained. "For freedom games, we start out with a very good Winslow team. We played Winslow a couple times this past summer. They beat us each time. So it will be a very good game at Winslow. We also have Pusch Ridge at Tucson. Coach Tvrdy has a good program in the south. If we can win that game, it will help us out."

Whitehorse continued, "Snowflake is always quick and physical. With a new coach, Snowflake will be a good team to look out for in the east. At the end of January, we also have a chance to travel down to Gilbert to play one of the new teams in 3A, American Leadership Gilbert North. They have some good players from the Navajo reservation. They won the CAA state title last year. That will be a good experience for us."

Whitehorse said the Lady Sand Devils will host its Lake Powell Holiday Classic, November 29 to December 1.

"We have good teams from New Mexico, Nevada and the Valley in Phoenix," Whitehorse said. "In our second tournament, we will be traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada, during Christmas break, December 27-29, playing in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic, hosted by Centennial High School. We get to play some 6A big schools from Las Vegas, California, Washington and Alaska. After the break, we come back to our region games, where it really matters and leads us into the post season."

Whitehorse emphasized that the Lady Sand Devils had a good summer, playing in various tournaments against talented players and top notched teams.

"We got to play a lot of teams we'll see during the season and a lot of our girls got a chance to see what kind of team we can be," Whitehorse stated. "Of course the 3A North Region is going to be toughest. I feel everyone in our region will be good this year."

Whitehorse said the Lady Sand Devils played some of the 3A North Region teams this past summer.

"Tuba City looked good this summer," Whitehorse noted. "Coach Williams has some really good kids coming up and they'll be a team to look out for. Monument Valley has three of his key players returning for their senior year. I know they had a good summer. They will be hungry for another state title run this season. We didn't get to play Ganado this summer. Coach Bitsuie has good post player returning, a freshman from last year's team that sparked them in some games and they have good guards."

Whitehorse continued, "Chinle has a good, versatile post player returning. Window Rock is always a good program that we tend to struggle with in the past. This summer, we also got to play Sabino from the south. They're a really good team with a quick point guard and a transfer that should help them make a run at the state title."