Swarming infantry

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The Mojavian drought hasn’t subsided.

It would have been almost too poetic. Alamo Navajo post Dustine Abeyta, transferring from Magdalena as a ninth-grader, then helping the upstart Cougars break a marathon nine-year losing streak to the Steers.

That’s how the story read with 2 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first half, with Navajo Alamo digging itself out of an early hole to tie it at 25 apiece.

But the Wally Sanchez-coached Steers bled red ink all over the Cougars’ manuscript, closing on a 10-3 run that signaled the end of the half but the beginning of the onslaught.

Magdalena’s press eventually sapped the vigor out the Cougars en route to a 70-39 win Tuesday night at Steers gym, the Steers’ sixth consecutive win.

“We could probably go play another game right now,” said head coach Wally Sanchez, whose team improved to 13-4.

Needless to say, the Cougars looked like they’d need a month to recuperate.

Abeyta, back from a one-game suspension after getting ejected for throwing the ball at Desert Academy’s Estrella Flores, was the reason the Cougars were in it. She won the scoring battle; the Steers won the war. She finished with 23 points, but only six of those came in the final 16 minutes.

Many of Alamo’s second-half possessions played out the same way — with the Cougars inbounding the ball to a streaking Abeyta, who brought it upcourt and tried to go one-on-one with a collection of Steers’ defenders.

It wasn’t a successful formula, as fatigue clearly caught up to Alamo’s star player.

On at least two occasions, after badly missing shots she usually makes, Abeyta walked back on defense. Both times she didn’t make it past the timeline before the Steers put the ball through the net.

“She was tired. Everybody was tired,” Cougars’ head coach Chee Apachito said. “They played their hearts out in the first half, and that’s why it was a game. We came to play, but at the end, we ran out of gas.”

Meantime, Magdalena continued to push the accelerator.

Alamo pulled to within 35-30 at the 7:19 third-quarter mark, and then the Steers closed the quarter on a 17-2 run.

Keanda Chavez, Alicia Armijo, Kameron Armstrong and Breann Baca accounted for all the Steers’ points in that stretch. Chavez finished with 21 points to lead the quartet of Steers in double figures. Armijo had 16 points, Armstrong 14 and Baca 13.

Armstrong said Alamo improved since the last time the teams met — that a 66-24 throttling on Dec. 8.

“It’s always hard playing Alamo,” she said. “The first time we played them this year, we beat them by a lot, so in a way, you do underestimate them. You don’t want to, but they’ve grown a lot.”

Sanchez didn’t want to undersell Alamo’s progress, but he acknowledged his team played underwhelming in the first half. It missed three layups to open the contest.

“Bottom line is we didn’t come out ready to play,” Sanchez said. “Good teams can sometimes get away with it, and we got away with it tonight. And not being ready for a basketball game is like a disease. If one person starts screwing around, it just spreads like fire.”

 


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