South All-Stars push North juggernauts to the edge
In the nine years the North has been playing the South in the annual 3A New Mexico High School All-Star Girl’s Basketball game, the South prevailed just one time. About three quarters of the way through Friday night’s contest in Las Vegas, it looked like the South might get the best of their northern rivals for the second time in the 10-year rivalry.
The basketball gods had different designs though, and Friday the 13th proved to be unlucky for the girls from southern New Mexico.
The North’s combination of a relentless full-court press coupled with the ferocious pace of their transition offense was a bit too much for the South. In the end the North held on for a 76-72 victory, their ninth of the series.
The first half of the game, which had recently been remodeled to include both 2A and 3A players from around the state, was a back and forth affair as neither team could muster up consistent defensive stops to open up any significant lead.
Magdalena graduate Keanda Chavez knocked down a three pointer with just less than three minutes left in the opening half to give the South a 34-29 lead, but the North went on an 8-2 run to close out the half and take a 37-36 advantage into the locker room.
The first seven minutes of the second half closely mirrored play in the first half as both teams exchanged turnovers and spectacular three-point plays. Santa Fe Indian School alumnus Mystri Jodie scored three points the old fashioned way to cut a five point South lead to two at 47-45, but the next four minutes saw the North yield seven straight points to their southern rivals. With 12:30 left in the game, the South had built a 54-45 lead and they appeared to have the game under control.
The North apparently disagreed.
Texico’s Jordan Cooper ignited the rowdy, pro-North crowd with a dazzling steal and lay-up combo, part of a 21-11 run that gave them their first lead since the opening minute of the second half. With a little more than 2:30 remaining, the score was 66-65. That’s when things got even more interesting.
Portales grad Macy Mitchell hit five consecutive free throws for the South to give them a 70-69 lead with 53 seconds left, then Mitchell’s former Rams teammate Gerianne Saveedra fouled Cooper with 34 tics remaining. Cooper hit one of two from the charity stripe to tie the game at 70, and the South would never regain the lead.
Santa Rosa’s Mariah Velasquez laid the ball in with less than 30 seconds to go to give the North a two point advantage, and a driving airball by Mystica Perez from Lovington all but sealed the South’s fate. Cooper hammered the final nail in the coffin with four seconds left, giving the South a 76-72 lead with two clutch free throws and, ultimately, the victory.
Cooper had 22 points on the evening, earning her the game’s Most Valuable Player honor.
Even though the South wound up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, Chavez and fellow Magdalena graduate Kameron Armstrong saw the All-Star experience overall as a positive one.
“It was awesome,” Chavez said.
“It was a lot of fun. We (the team) came together.”
And more time on the court against some of the state’s best players can only be good for Chavez, who’s heading to Cochise College in Arizona to play college ball this fall.
It was a little bit different feeling for Armstrong, who played the last game of her basketball career on Friday.
“It was kind of more motivating,” she said about the two-a-day practices and hard work the girls put in during the week.
“This is my very, very last game ever. We all connected. We worked so hard,” she added.
“I tried my hardest and that’s all I could do.”