Mustangs go 3-and-2 in Williams opener

December 6, 2018

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Even without their heavy artillery Needles’ Mustangs went 3-2 in the traditional non-conference basketball tournament that’s opened the season for many years.

Playing a format of two 20 minute halves for all but the final game the boys beat Basis 57-28 in the first game, lost to Cibecue, Ariz., 76-54 in the second, posted a 61-50 win over El Capitan in the third game then lost to the hosts 54-38 in their final game on Friday.

Saturday morning, in the usual four eight-minute quarters format they posted a 71-60 win over Grand Canyon High School.

The tourney ran Thursday through Saturday in Williams, Ariz., just shy of 7,000 feet elevation a bit west of the Arizona Divide.

“We don’t have four of our big guys yet,” said new varsity coach Paul Duchaineau. “Semaj (Howell) and Doogie (Harvey) didn’t go with us. I see a good future for our team when we get all of our players back. I think we’re a good team. We shoot well.”

Both Howell and Harvey stand a stout six feet three inches and are very hard to push around in the post.

With sophomore Dawsen Yeager and junior Nathan Rodriguez scoring 18 points each the Mustangs’ Game 1 was decisive. Needles led all the way, up 27-13 in the first half, then doubling Basis’ 15 in the second. “We played well,” said Duchaineau. “We got a lot of fast break points and rebounded really well. That was the first time we’ve played as a team with me coaching and I’m very happy with the outcome.”

The very energetic Apache Crown Dancers that have been a big hit in the Fort Mojave Indian Days Parade the last few years are from Cibecue, on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona. Turns out those boys can do more than dance. “They were substantially taller than us and out rebounded us by, I’d say, two to one,” the coach remembered. “They had three guys six feet four or over and we had trouble on the boards in that game. We also missed a lot of three point shots. We worked hard; I think if our three point shots had fallen it would have been different.”

Yeager turned in a stunning 28 point performance in Game 3 against El Capitan. Needles led 32-23 at the halftime buzzer and continued to hold on, outscoring their opponents 29-27 in the second half. Rodriguez added 10 points and senior Trevyn Diaz, who proved he could jump during football season, added eight. “We pretty much hit our three point shots,” Duchaineau said. “Dawsen had four threes, Nate hit two. We were rebounding much better. We didn’t match up to them size-wise, but were a lot closer than with Cibecue.”

Williams has some big boys of their own this year, including a center that stands six feet five inches and a forward that stands six feet three. Still, Needles held on to trail just three at the half: 21-18. “Then they came out and started on us,” Duchaineau remembered. “One of their kids was six for seven. They shot quite a few threes and just boarded over us.” The Mustangs shooting chilled, compounding the trouble. Yeager finished with 12 points for the game, Rodriguez eight.

At 7,000 feet a couple days of trout fishing can be tiring around Williams. Still, a night’s rest seemed to reenergize Duchaineau’s Mustangs. Yeager scored 21 in Saturday’s game, and Rodriguez scored 25 with six threes. “He was hot,” the coach said.

Though the Mustangs sized up well against Grand Canyon and their fast break game was successful, the northern Arizona team still led 31-27 at the half. Duchaineau gave his boys a pep talk during the break and the Mustangs rallied, outscoring their opponents 44 to 29 in the second half to take the win.

The Mustangs host The Meadows on Saturday, Dec. 8. The junior varsity tip off at 1, the varsity at 4 p.m. in The Corral.

The Mustangs host Mountain View Christian on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The JV tips off at 3 p.m., the varsity at 6 p.m. PST.

Update hourly