With four minutes and change left in Saturday’s game, Amanda Saenz drove the lane, put a nifty spin move on a West Las Vegas defender and then proceeded to miss a wide-open layup.
That sequence of events crystallized how things went for the Socorro girls basketball team in the fourth quarter of the Hope Christian School Invitational consolation game.
Facing an eight-point deficit entering the final eight minutes, the onus was on the Warriors to score. And when they needed them most, SHS (3-12) instead got empty possessions in a hard-fought 45-35 loss that left the Warriors empty-handed when it came to handing out the trophy to the third-place finisher.
SHS, 1-of-19 from the field in the fourth quarter, didn’t make its first basket till the 3:03 mark. That brought the Warriors within seven points, as the Dons endured their own set of struggles from the field. West Las Vegas didn’t register its first field goal till Jaymee Quintana put them up 37-28 with 5:34 left. Their next basket didn’t come for 2 minutes, 42 seconds, but the Warriors managed just three points during that stretch, including JeriAna Contreras’ bucket.
Dezirae Armijo hit a pair of free throws to trim the Dons’ lead to 40-33, and SHS had a golden opportunity to make the lead more manageable, but the usually-reliable Ashton Monette saw a 12-footer bound off the rim. The Dons hit four free throws in the last 55 seconds to push their lead into double-digits.
Early on, it looked like Saturday’s game would come down to the wire.
The two teams combined for six ties and lead changes. As usual, the Warriors were at a distinct disadvantage on the interior, but they still had a 17-13 advantage on the boards after one half. If anything, what hurt the Warriors most was their undeterred affinity for the 3-pointer. They jacked them up at will, but were 2-of-14 from downtown in the first half.
Monette’s 3 ball with 2:22 in the second period brought SHS within three points, before Marissa Marquez shaved another two points off the Dons’ lead. At the half, West Las Vegas led 25-22.
Contreras then hit back-to-back buckets to start the third quarter to tie the teams at 25 and 27-all. But the Dons closed the third quarter on a 8-0 run, and Socorro could never get out of its fourth-quarter shooting rut.
Despite the loss, SHS — after starting the season 0-10 — has won three games in the last week, starting with Tohatchi on Jan. 7. It faced top-ranked Hope Christian to start the Hope Christian School Invitational and hung with the Huskies for a quarter before getting overpowered. But that set the agenda for the rest of the tournament, as the Warriors secured an appearance in Saturday’s consolation game with a 58-46 win over Zuni.
The Warriors, hoping to turn over a new leaf in the second half of their season, visited Hatch Valley on Tuesday in their District 3-3A opener.
As a 15 seed last year, Socorro lost to Portales 48-22 in the opening round of the state tournament and could be on the verge of missing out on the madness for the first time since 2000 unless it has a complete reversal of fortunes in district.
HOPE 51, LOS LUNAS 39:
Behind Steffi Berniklau’s 12 points, the top-ranked Huskies toppled Los Lunas to claim the first-place trophy. The Tigers didn’t have anybody in double figures. Jadee Lewis and Nicole Jenrette both had nine points to pace Los Lunas.
HOT SPRINGS 42, HATCH VALLEY 36:
In a matchup that later might decide the District 3-3A champs, Round 1 went to the Hot Springs girls basketball team — even though it doesn’t officially count on the district scorecard.
With former head coach Walt Sanchez watching from the bleachers — he was fired Jan. 9 for not keeping his teaching and coaching licenses current — the Tigers put together a 17-1 run, flipping a 33-22 deficit into a 39-34 lead with 2:09 left to play. The Tigers went on to win the third-place game in the Hope Christian School Invitational — considered a nondistrict affair, though it involved district foes.
Fittingly, Sarai Clendenin, one of two Tigers on the all-tournament team, hit a pair of free throws to end the Bears’ hopes.
It should be said, though, Hatch just flat-out blew this one.
It possessed a seven-point lead after three quarters and extended the gap to 33-22 after Kelcie Carson’s bucket. But the Bears just couldn’t keep Clendenin at bay. She jimmied through the lane time and again. With 3:34 left, she sliced past a pair of Bears defenders and banked in a pretty scoop shot, putting the Tigers ahead, it turned out, for good.
Clendenin finished with 15 points. Tessa Jones, who joined her teammate on the all-tourney team, had 13 points. Audrey Hackey chipped in 10 points to lead the Bears.
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