Whitehorse and Monument Valley girls set for top-five rivalry showdown

It’s a top-five showdown and the newest installment of the Battle of the Drum this Friday, January 17 when the #1 Whitehorse Lady Raiders pay a visit to the #4 Monument Valley Lady Cougars.

Both teams have put together impressive records headed into the first of two matchups between the rivals this season.

With 12 wins and two losses when the week began, Whitehorse was #1 in the 1A UHSAA RPI standings (#2 in the Deseret News rankings). Monument Valley came into the week 9-4 and was #4 in both rankings.

Both teams were riding six-game winning streaks heading into the week and both teams have two games to play before their anticipated meeting on Friday.

Whitehorse hosted old Region 19 foe Monticello on Tuesday, January 14 while Monument Valley traveled to Mancos, CO.

The Lady Raiders will play Rock Point, AZ at home on Thursday, January 16 at the same time the Lady Cougars play in Red Mesa, AZ.

Then the two teams will be ready for some fireworks Friday night in the Monument Valley High School gymnasium.

The Battle of the Drum game also marks the start of the Region 19 schedule for Monument Valley. Whitehorse already has one win in the region, over Green River on January 10.

Whitehorse head coach Tiona Grant was unavailable for comment before the game, but I spoke with Monument Valley Assistant Coach Doug Freed.

He said the Lady Cougars are a tight-knit group that enjoys playing together and they will learn a lot about themselves with a couple tough matchups this week.

“This group is mentally tough,” said Freed. “We’ve won some close games, and I’m not sure last year’s team had that.”

As Monument Valley has been since the beginning of the season, they are a run-and-gun team.

Although seniors Jamika Nelson (16.7 point per game) and Tanisha Cowboy (10.4) continue to lead the team, the Lady Cougars have a trio of freshman who have been impressive.

“Alyiah Blackwater has become one of the most important players on our team,” Freed explained.

“She gets a lot of rebounds and plays hard.” Raemi Nez, the team’s third-leading scorer, and Brandi Upshaw have also made a huge impact.

There are still a couple games to play before Friday, but it’s hard not to look ahead to the big rivalry matchup.

Coach Freed said, “We expect Whitehorse to be pretty tough. They’re definitely playing the right way.”

The varsity game tips off at 7 p.m. in the Monument Valley gym Friday night.

You better get there early if you want to see the action. Oh, and bring your earplugs; it’ll be crowded and loud.

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