The Navajo Indians and the Blair Broncs went head-to-head in an OSSAA District Tournament Friday night in Canute. The teams were more or less neck-and-neck for the duration of the contest, battling back and forth until Navajo pulled away with the victory in an impressive fourth quarter.
The Navajo Indians jumped out to an early lead to start the game, hitting two 3-pointers in consecutive possessions. Senior #13 Nathan Cross ended up making 3 triples in the first to help the Indians’ scoring efforts. The Broncs, however, were not to be out-shot, and responded with two back-to-back three-pointers of their own, taking the score to 10-13 with 2:30 left in the first.
The Indians switched to a man defense to begin the second quarter of play, and they also began establishing a serious offensive presence in the paint. Navajo ran out of timeouts in the second quarter, and started using their zone-press defense to try to slow down the Broncs, who had gotten into the bonus with three minutes remaining before half time. Despite the increased defensive pressure, the Broncs were able to tie up the game with :45 seconds remaining until the buzzer, but Navajo continued to battle and took a 29-27 lead into the locker room.
Navajo slowly began to take the edge over Blair in the third, utilizing their player speed in transition to get open looks. When the open shot wasn’t there, Navajo was able to drive the lane for several layups, also drawing fouls and creating opportunities for points at the free-throw line. Blair started to show some carelessness with the ball in the third, giving up several turnovers to the Indians. Neither team was able to create a significant lead, however; Blair’s coach Anderson said, “We missed some shots then we had the chance to go up. We missed like 2 or 3 shots right under the basket.” The Indians barely topped the Broncs going into the fourth and final period of play, 45-41.
Blair continued struggling to maintain possession of the ball to start the fourth, and early turnovers in the quarter led to easy points for Navajo. The Indians made it to the bonus with 2:30 left after relying on good shooting and a solid zone defense to grow their lead to 54-42. The Navajo Indians defeated the Blair Broncs in the fourth by a score of 13-5, making the final in the matchup 58-46 in favor of the Indians.
Despite the loss, Blair found many open three-point looks throughout the game for the fantastic freshman duo of Jacob Taylor (19 points in the game) and Payson Ramirez (14 points total). Blair coach BJ Armstrong said, “I have 7 freshmen that suit out with the high school out of 13. They played all the Junior High and High School games and got a lot of good experience that will help us.” Blair ended up shooting 40% from beyond the arc to keep them close in a hard-fought loss to the Navajo Indians.
Three stand-out players in Navajo’s victory were Nathan Cross, Maxwell Smith, and Caston Lambert. Cross scored 29 points and had 5 rebounds in the contest. His Coach, David Doss, said of him, “Nathan had a good night from the field and was shooting really well.” Smith and Caston shined as well in the rebounding category, pulling down 8 rebounds each. Of Max Smith Coach Doss said, “[He] hasn’t been starting for us, [but] was out leading rebounder. And he was the shortest guy on the floor! I was glad to have Max tonight.” Combined, the Indians made 44% of shots from the floor, and impressive feat for any team hitting the hardwood, and a statistic that ultimately led to their advancing to face the Canute Trojans Saturday night on the road to move on to regional tournament play.
Daniel Moran is a contributing writer for the Altus Times