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Fluco girls basketballThe Conference 29 year-end tournament started Monday, Feb. 13. The fourth-seeded Flying Flucos girls’ team hosted the fifth-seeded Indians from Fort Defiance High.In an extremely tight defensive struggle, a number of Fluco freshmen came up big in the final minutes.

With 2:44 remaining, Fort Defiance hit one of two from the foul line to take a lead of 35-34. The Flucos have a very young team with freshmen in a number of key positions.  With no postseason experience under their belts, this young a team might be expected fold in this situation. However, Coach Chad White’s squad stepped up and won the final minutes 6-1 for its four-point win. Freshman point guard Jules Shepherd made a hard drive down the lane for a lay-up to put the Flucos up 36-35. Then Shepherd made one of two from the line for a two-point lead with less than a minute left. With 27 seconds left, the Indians converted on the first of two free throws. The second free throw was off the mark and Fluco freshman Kiya Scott soared high for a decisive rebound.

The Indians promptly fouled freshman guard Navaeh Ivory. She stepped to the line and coolly drained two free throws for a three point lead 39-36. When the Indians tried to inbound, Scott guarded the inbound pass and leaped high to distract the pass-in, allowing Ivory to steal the ball.

The Flucos missed two free throws to give the Indians a final chance for a three-point shot with six seconds left. This time it was Scott with a steal. She was fouled and made one of two for the final four-point win. The Fluco defense was suffocating in the final period, holding the Indians to one field goal and six free throws.

This game was extremely close throughout, as both teams worked hard on defense and had trouble finding their rhythm on offense. The Indians opened the game with the first five points. The Flucos responded with seven in a row on a three-point basket by Ivory and baskets from Ivory and Shepherd. The first quarter ended with the Indians leading 8-7.

The second quarter was even as both teams scored eight. Junior center Jemika Johnson had an inside basket in the second quarter and Ivory hit a three, a two and a free throw.

In the third quarter, the scoring picked up a little. The Indians scored early and gained a four-point advantage in mid-quarter. The Flucos got two inside lay-ups from Johnson early in the quarter.  Late in the quarter, senior guard Chaniya Brown scored a two-point basket on a drive and sank a three-point shot as the quarter wound down.

The teams went to the final quarter tied at 28-28. For both teams, a loss would mean the end of their season, so the play was particularly intense.

The fourth quarter started slowly with the Indians sticking to their zone defense and the Flucos playing mostly a tight man-to-man. The game was tied at 34-34 after five minutes of play. Then came the three minutes detailed above.

Ivory led the Flucos in scoring with 14, while Shepherd had nine and Johnson eight. Ivory led the rebounding with nine and Brown had eight.

After the game White noted that he was very pleased with his team’s defense and its rebounding. He was also pleased with the way Shepherd took the ball to the basket and with the defensive intensity of Scott.

The Fluco win means that they move on to the semi-finals. They played on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Broadway High, the top-seeded team in the Conference 29 tournament. If they win that game they will play in the Conference final on Saturday, Feb. 18.