SHS girls fall in district downer

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The night essentially started with Dezirae Armijo on the free-throw line. And it ended that way, too.

Except as Armijo waited for the referee to administer the ball, there was nothing on the line.

The Socorro High School girls basketball team’s District 3-3A matchup with Hot Springs on Friday was a consummate blur of fouls and free throws, ending with the home team suffering another defeat, 58-35, and the home crowd promptly filing out of Warriors gym.

Socorro and Hot Springs combined for 41 fouls and 51 free-throw attempts, as the 23-point deficit could be explained away by the teams’ conversion rate: Hot Springs hit 28 of its 37 freebies to Socorro’s five.

The Warriors were crushed 57-27 by St. Michael’s on Monday, dropping them to 4-15 and 0-2 in district play, but it’s Friday’s setback that prompts an even more disconcerting realization: If the Warriors are looking for a reversal of fortunes in district play, they better start looking for a new fortune-teller.

The once-lionized Warriors are well on their way to becoming the first SHS girls team since 2000 to miss the state tournament. And more and more, the District 3-3A regular-season race is becoming about Tigers and Bears.

The Warriors could have recast themselves from also-ran to redoubtable contender had they earned a split against Hatch Valley and Hot Springs, presumably the teams that will jockey for position atop the district standings. Instead they’ve made their next meetings with the two vastly more important — that is, if the Warriors can keep pace.

If ever there was a time coming off a slender 43-32 loss at Hatch, and a place, for the Warriors, it was at home in front of an energized crowd.

And for a half, the visitors looked unsettled, up only nine points at intermission.

Then the Tigers earned their stripes, using an 11-2 run spanning four minutes of the third quarter to put the game on ice. To say Sarai Clendenin had ice running through her veins would be cliché and disrespectful. More appropriately, she was a vat of liquid nitrogen, pouring cold water on the Warriors every time they threatened.

Twice during that blitz, Clendenin converted traditional three-point plays — that latter which gave the Tigers a 34-18 advantage. She used her blinding quickness to draw contact and spent more time at the line than anybody on the floor, hitting her last 16 free throws. She finished with 24 points.

Individually, Socorro’s Theresa Chavez had a stellar game, at one point scoring eight straight points to close the gap to 39-26 with 7:31 left. She finished with 10 points to lead the Warriors, but Tessa Jones responded with a pair of free throws and a bucket sandwiched around a three-point play to push the Tigers’ lead to 20.

SOCORRO 58, HOT SPRINGS 51:

This isn’t gymnastics — there are no style points.

Sometimes basketball is just about gutting it out.

Tony Archuleta/T or C Herald: Socorro’s Humberto Lucero gets off a hook shot during the Warriors’ win over Hot Springs on Friday. SHS improved to 9-8 and 2-0 in District 3-3A.

And the Socorro boys basketball team did just that. It never trailed at Hot Springs, holding a 10-point lead for much of the second half. The Tigers eventually hit a pair of 3-pointers to get trim the margin under double digits, but SHS was never truly in danger of losing this one.

Charles Contreras had a game-high 15 points for the Warriors. Ibrahim Maiga chipped in 13, but SHS relied on small-potatoes contributions from others to pace it. It was crazy eights, with Humberto Lucero, Zeb Esquivel and Sam Hale all scoring eight apiece.

Socorro shot only 18-of-30 from the free-throw line, but Hot Springs couldn’t get it to a one-possession game in the second half. They trailed 27-26 at intermission before the Warriors methodically pulled away.

Head coach Lawrence Baca said it wasn’t his team’s most authoritative performance of the year, but he’ll take it.

“It put us in the driver’s seat in district,” he said. “It was probably closer than it should have been, but we’ll take the ‘W’. We took our bumps and bruises at the beginning of the season, and now it’s starting to pay off.”

 


-- Email the author at iavilucea@dchieftain.com.