Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Cooper Burbank, Stacey Begay lead Chinle to Choice Wireless Classic championship

December 9, 2018 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

Chinle junior shooting guard Cooper Burbank and Lady Wildcats senior post Stacey Begay were invincible as the two led their respective teams to championship victories before a large hometown crowd at the Wildcat Den in the Choice Wireless Classic this past Saturday.

Burbank was tough in the clutch. The 6-foot-2 Burbank rattled the cages for a game high 26 points to lead Chinle to a 56-52 win over the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets in the boy's tournament.

Lady Wildcats senior post Begay, Chinle's go-to player, stepped up in the spotlight, responding with 28 points to lead her team to a convincing 80-34 victory over the Florence Gophers in the girl's tournament.

Burbank and Begay were voted as the tournament's Most Valuable Player in the boy's and girl's divisions respectively for their outstanding efforts throughout the three-day tournament.

Boys Championship

Chinle 56, Blue Ridge 52

Chinle's victory was revenge. Earlier in the day, the Wildcats suffered a 71-64 setback to Blue Ridge. Blue Ridge advanced to the championship game. The loss dropped Chinle into the loser's bracket.

Chinle outlasted the Window Rock Fighting Scouts, 66-61, in an elimination game. With the victory, Chinle advanced into the championship contest to face Blue Ridge, in a winner-take-all game. Window Rock finished third place.

Chinle head coach Raul Mendoza said winning the championship was well earned.

"We played three games today (Saturday)," Mendoza said. "We lost to Blue Ridge this morning (Saturday morning). The loss dropped us into the loser's bracket. We beat Window Rock, which put us into the championship game. We met Blue Ridge for the second time in the tournament on the same day (Saturday night). The guys came through with an outstanding win, against an extremely tough Blue Ridge team. All the victories today (Saturday) were well earned by the guys. The guys worked hard throughout each game. I am proud of all the guys."

The Chinle - Blue Ridge championship game was nip-and-tuck contest from the opening tipoff to the final second.

Chinle held a 14-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, as both teams traded baskets during the eight minutes. The contest remained close in the second period. The Wildcats outpointed the Yellowjackets, 16-11, for a six-point halftime advantage, 30-24.

"I knew it would be close," Mendoza said. "The guys played good defense. Blue Ridge has good shooters. Blue Ridge's guards can shoot the ball from the perimater and they are quick to drive to the basket. Our guys did a good job defensively. Our guards pressured their guards."

Paced by R.J. Tate, Corey Endfield and Darrien Burnette, the Yellowjackets shifted gears in the third quarter. Blue Ridge pushed the ball up the floor, canning baskets. The Yellowjackets tallied 18 points. Chinle stayed close in the third period, netting 11 points. When the eight minutes expired, Blue Ridge held a 42-41 lead, leading into the fourth quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Corey Endfield knocked down a basket, giving Blue Ridge a 44-41 lead.

Burbank stepped up pumping in a three-pointer and followed with a basket from the perimeter as the Wildcats took a 50-48 advantage.

Endfield answered with a basket from the perimeter, tying the game at 50-50 with 3:24 remaining in the contest.

Chinle returned the favor. Wildcat guard Curtis Begay knocked down a three-pointer, lifting the Wildcats to a 53-50 lead with 3:09 left. Begay gave Chinle a six-point lead, 56-50, with 1:42 left, when he completed a three-point play.

Blue Ridge's Endfield scored the Yellowjackets' final two points of the game. Chinle continued to lead the game, 56-52, with 1:23 remaining in the game.

After taking a timeout, Chinle worked the clock down to 32.2 seconds, before committing a turnover. Blue Ridge returned the favor, turning the ball over. Chinle ran out the clock for the win.

While Cooper Burbank scorched the cords with 26 points, teammate Curtis Begay netted 16 points for Chinle.

Corey Endfield led Blue Ridge with 17 points, followed by R.J. Tate with 16 points and Dsrrien Burnette tallied 13 points.

Chinle travels to Tuba City on Tuesday to face the Warriors in a 3A North Region game at 7:30 p.m. Thew Wildcats return home this Friday, entertaining defending State Champion Winslow Bulldogs in the Wildcat Den at 7:30 p.m. for a freedom game.

Girls Championship

Chinle 80, Florence 34

Chinle Lady Wildcats took control of the game from the contest's onset, en route to an 80-34 win for the tournament championship.

Chinle head coach Francine McCurtain said she was proud of the Lady Wildcats' overall performance.

"The girls shot well and played solid defense throughout the game," McCurtain said. "Florence could score 14 points in the second half. A great defensive effort by the girls. Stacey (Begay) played an outstanding game. She worked inside the paint for baskets. Stacey scored 11 points in the first quarter and added another 11 points in the second quarter. Stacey scored 22 points by halftime.

It was Stacey Begay's shooting inside the paint and perimeter shooting from Brandii Clah during the first quarter, as Chinle took a commanding 25-7 lead. Begay manuevered around defenders, canning 11 points and Clah rattled the cages for 10 points during the opening frame. Stacey's teammates fed her the ball. Brandii (Clah) shot well from the outside. The girls came out wanting to win the championship. The girls did not back down. A great effort from all the girls."

Chinle continued to shoot well in the second quarter. The Lady Wildcats knocked down 27 points, while Florence managed 13 points in the second quarter. Chinle extended its lead to 52-20 at halftime.

The Lady Wildcats held Florence to four points in the third quarter, while Chinle pumped in 16 points for a 68-24 advantage. The tempo of the game slowed down in the fourth quarter, as Chinle outscored Florence, 12-10.

Stacey Begay poured in 28 points, followed by Tia Murray with 12 points and Grayce Claw tallied eight points for Chinle.

Chinle faces Tuba City Lady Warriors on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in a 3A North Region contest in Tuba City. The Lady Wildcats host the Winslow Lady Bulldogs this Friday at 6 p.m. in the Wildcat Den.