Monument Valley girls basketball looks to build third-straight winning season

In the 2018-2019 basketball season, the Monument Valley girls compiled a 19-6 overall record, their second winning season in a row. They won the Region 19 championship for the first time since 2013 and entered the state tournament ranked fourth.

A tough quarterfinal loss to Piute ended their title hopes, but the Lady Cougars battled back for a strong seventh place finish. It was just the second time in 14 seasons that the girls were still in the tournament on day four (the other was in 2018 when they finished fourth).

It will be a challenge in 2019-20 for the Lady Cougars to fill the shoes of the seniors who departed after last season. But if their performance at the 1A Preview in Richfield November 22-23 is any indication, the girls are in good shape.

In game one of the Preview and the season, Monument Valley got a little revenge on Piute. The Lady Cougars shut out the Lady Thunderbirds in the first quarter and held them to just one point in the third on the way to a 44-29 win.

But game two of the Preview was even more impressive. Though it didn’t result in a win, Monument Valley went back and forth with perennial powerhouse Panguitch, nearly pulling off a huge upset in a 48-45 loss.

Lady Cougar Assistant Coach Doug Freed said, “I don’t think that close game with Panguitch has sunk in for the girls. I don’t think they understand what they accomplished there.”

He pointed out that the 2018-19 team was under a lot of pressure to perform and it hurt them at the state tournament. He hopes the current team can relax and have fun all season. “We have a bunch of girls who absolutely love playing basketball,” he said.

They love practicing basketball too. Freed said that he and head coach Terri James find themselves getting up at the crack of dawn for 6 a.m. workouts because the players want to.

Coach James enters her fourth year at the helm of the Monument Valley girls basketball team. Through the first two games of the season, she has collected a 46-23 record and orchestrated two of the most successful seasons in their history.

It’ll be a different product on the court this year for the Lady Cougars. Coach Freed said that last season they were “big and slow and that worked,” but this year he expects them to be small and (he hopes) fast.

James and Freed are expecting a lot of points from all-state senior Jamika Nelson and senior Tanisha Cowboy. Freed expressed that he hasn’t seen a better player in 1A than Nelson. He added that Cowboy is a very good post-up player – not very tall, but strong.

Nelson scored 40 points in the two games at the Preview and Cowboy added 14. But the Lady Cougars have other weapons also.

Freshmen Raemi Nez and Alyah Blackwater have impressed both coaches in the early stages of the season. Nez averaged 7 points per game at the Preview and Blackwater 5.5.

“Everyone on the team has the ability to score,” Freed said. “If we can get the bulk [of our points from Nelson and Cowboy] and some balance scoring, I think we’ll be pretty good.”

One more senior on the 2019-20 roster is Christel Tsosie, who will be a big part of the Lady Cougar defense.

Monument Valley will rely on their defense and speed this season to compensate for their size. Freed said they’ll need to be fast since they don’t have the height many of their opponents will. He reported that the defense looked strong in Richfield.

James and Freed’s main goal this year is to see their players work hard and improve, both individually and as a team.

“That’s really the barometer – the thing that counts the most,” he explained. “If there are a bunch of wins and a banner of some sort that gets hung up, that’s the icing on the cake.”

The Lady Cougars won’t play again until after Thanksgiving, but then they’ll jump back into the schedule with both feet. They host Rock Point, AZ and Shiprock Northwest, NM on December 9-10 before a trip to Valley High School for the Buffalo Shootout December 13-14.

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