CHINLE, Ariz. —
A reservation title — AKA, a Division III, Section I championship — is sweet.
Delectably sweet actually, as 6,000 rabid Window Rock (Fort Defiance, Ariz.)
fans tasted during their school's highly impressive 76-48 win over Snowflake (Ariz.)
Saturday at Chinle's highly impressive Wildcat Den arena.
The smallish but hearty and quick Fighting Scouts said it was their best game of the year as 10 different players scored and contributed in a 28-point win against a much bigger, stronger and improved Snowflake squad that had no answer for dynamic point guard
(21 points, 10 assists) and company.
Ashley, a 5-foot-7 senior who was mobbed by Navajo Nation fans after the game and asked to sign dozens of autographs, controlled all facets of the game and hit five three-pointers to boot.
When Ashley, a four-year starter who seemingly can get to the basket at will, can also hit 3-pointers, Window Rock is nearly impossible to stop.
The Fighting Scouts (27-2) also got 16 points by Dominique Dale
and 11 from Darren Ashley
, Kyler's cousin.
It all added up to the team's 23rd consecutive victory under interim head coach Brad Thorsted, who took over six games into the season.
But as rich and chewy as the victory and title was, Thorsted reminded his team to keep its eye on the ultimate prize — a state championship.
"We don't want to just be champions of the reservation," Thorsted told his team after. "It's very nice and enjoy it. But remember what our ultimate goal is and to take it one game, one day, one practice at a time."
With defending champion Gilbert Christian standing in the way, and not a player in the rotation taller than 6-1, Window Rock appears to be a long shot to win state, according to most experts.
But then again, utilizing Thorsted's strict team play and "one-game-at-a-time" approach, the Fighting Scouts just powered through taller and stronger squads Show Low, St. Johns and Snowflake of the White Mountains, in succession to win the section.
"We couldn't have scheduled it any better to get ready for the state tournament," said Thorsted, an Albuquerque native who was an assistant three seasons before taking over at the top. "I thought from top to bottom we received excellent effort and performances tonight. These kids play with a lot of heart and skill."Piazza Bowman
and Alex Destea
came off the bench to give a big spark and in the final minute, the Fighting Scouts finished this off with a tremendous game of keep-a-way to the delight of the almost exclusive Window Rock fans.
Most, as usual, were delighted by the dynamic play of Kyler Ashley, who was everywhere with steals, airborne assists and long-range jumpers.
"I definitely think this was our best game of the year," Kyler Ashley said. "Lately it seems we've put only two or three quarters together. But tonight it was all four and everyone off the bench contributed." Chase Walden
led Snowflake (23-7) with 13 points and Dallin Merrell
Both teams will almost assuredly get first-round byes into the state tournament and automatically advance to second-round play in Flagstaff.
The brackets are scheduled to come out noon Sunday.