Lady Steers host first round 2A playoff game

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After suffering a heartbreaking loss in the District 3-2A championship game last Friday night, the Magdalena High School girls basketball team looks ahead to a fresh start in the state playoffs.

The Steers (21-7) came out as the fifth seed in the Class 2A tournament when brackets were released on Sunday. They'll host Cloudcroft (16-8) in a first-round game this Friday night at 6.

"I'm happy with a five seed," Magdalena head coach Wally Sanchez said. "I thought we'd be a five or a six, so five is not bad. We've been (ranked) in that area all season. The combination of being runner up in district and runner up in the district tournament puts us right there."

The Steers had a chance to go into the state tournament as district champions, but suffered a crushing 58-54 loss to Laguna Acoma on Friday night at Laguna.

Magdalena took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, but let it slip away. The Steers still had two chances to tie or win the game in the final seconds, but missed a layup and a putback attempt. The Hawks then iced the game with free throws with three seconds left.

"That was then and this is now," Sanchez said. "It's a new season now. Everything in the past has been a learning experience. Now we're going to find out how much we've learned."

In the hours after the tournament brackets were released, Sanchez was trying to learn as much as he could about Cloudcroft, a team they haven't seen this season.

"I've been trading information with other coaches," he said. "I know that they're big. They have a girl who's 5-10 and another one who's 5-9. They like to run and they like to press."

The Steers and Bears have had three common opponents this season. The Bears are 4-0 against those teams, while the Steers are 3-0.

Cloudcroft has played Tularosa three times, beating them by an average of 3.67 points. Magdalena has beaten Tully twice by an average of 15 points.

The Bears opened the season with a 28-point victory over Carrizozo, while the Steers dusted 'Zozo by 38 points earlier this month.

Cloudcroft has been a pretty good road team this season, going 9-4 away from home. That includes a 5-3 mark in true road games and 4-1 on neutral courts.

Meanwhile, Magdalena has been almost unbeatable on their home floor, going 13-1. They haven't lost a game in their gym since a season-opening loss to Class 3A Hatch Valley.

But that doesn't mean Magdalena can afford to take Cloudcroft lightly.

"They're not going to come in here and roll over, I guarantee you that," Sanchez said. "But I think my ballclub will be ready to play some serious basketball as we go into this tournament."

This will be the final state tournament run for five Magdalena seniors: Alicia Armijo, Kameron Armstrong, Keanda Chavez, Maxie Kiehne and April Martinez.

Chavez has taken the Steers by the horns lately, leading the team's scoring attack the last three games. She scored 21 points against Laguna on Friday, had 11 against Estancia in the district semifinals and put up 20 against the Hawks in a tiebreaker game to determine the district's regular season champ.

The Steers will use Armijo, junior Clarissa Gomez and sophomore Kadie Kiehne to match up against Cloudcroft's big girls, Karly Alvord, Polly Rogers and Stephanie and Stacie O'Connor.

Collectively, the Magdalena girls have been playing some good basketball lately, though Laguna seems to have their number. After beating the Hawks by 20 points in Magdalena on Jan. 19, the Steers have lost three straight to them — twice in Laguna and once on a neutral court.

Thanks to that surge, the Hawks earned the third seed in the tournament behind No. 2 Mora and No. 1 Texico.

The winner of the Magdalena-Cloudcroft game moves on the quarterfinals at Bernalillo High School on Tuesday, March 6. They'll play the winner of the matchup between fourth-seeded Navajo Prep and 13th-seeded Dexter.


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