Elkettes take win

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If there’s one thing the Lady Warriors basketball team can say with full confidence, even this early in the season, is that it definitely has the poise and confidence to play from behind.

For the second time in three games this year Socorro found itself in a halftime hole, and for the second time in three games it found a way to fight and claw its way back within striking distance.

Against Belen on Nov. 27, the Lady Warriors overcame that deficit and won. But Pojoaque has a lethal weapon the Eagles don’t possess, and it comes in the form of senior point guard Cheyenne Cordova.

The Elkettes’ standout lit Socorro up for 20 points in the first half and helped her team build a lead the Lady Warriors couldn’t quite surmount, as Pojoaque Valley held on for a dramatic 56-53 win.

Socorro dropped to 2-1 on the season while the Elkettes improved to 2-2.

Cordova hit six 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes to help give Pojoaque a 29-19 lead, then added eight points in the second half for a total of 28 to lead all scorers.

“She’s probably the premier guard in the state as far as 3A basketball is concerned,” Socorro head coach Marleen Greenwood said. “And not only can she handle the pressure and handle the ball, but she shoots the ball exceptionally well.”

But if Cordova hadn’t been so efficient Tuesday, both teams might have been singing a different song after the final buzzer. While five other players scored in the first two quarters for Pojoaque, they mustered just nine points between them.

Socorro even took a 16-15 lead 70 seconds into the second quarter when Jeriana Contreras found Ashley Pyke for an easy layup. Contreras had just previously hit a 3-pointer to cut the Elkettes’ lead to 15-14.

But moments later is when Cordova entered a three-point shooting contest no one else was really aware of, and by the time she sank her final 3 with around two minutes to go in the half, Socorro was staring down the end of a nine-point deficit.

Greenwood had said after her team’s win over Bernalillo on Nov. 30 they would have to keep the ball out of Cordova’s and junior Cheyenne Law’s hands to have a chance. They accomplished half of that in holding the six-foot center to just one point in the first half and seven overall by getting her into early foul trouble.

And despite heading into halftime down 29-19, the veteran Warriors had been in that position before, and not just this year. Greenwood pointed out this team went into several fourth quarters last season behind on the scoreboard, and still managed to make those games close.

“I think they showed some true colors and grit against Belen that very first time,” she said. “They did not panic. So when we went in down by 10 at the half, I wasn’t really worried about that whole situation tonight because we do seem to play with confidence.”

That confidence light bulb appeared to come on for Socorro about two minutes into the second half when Ashton Monette hit her first 3-point bucket of the night, then hit another moments later to trim the Pojoaque Valley lead to 41-33. In the waning seconds of the third quarter, a Contreras steal led to two Monette free throws, which pulled Socorro to within six. At the end of three, the score was 41-35 Elkettes, but almost as importantly, the home team had managed to hold Cordova to just four third-quarter points.

“We made an adjustment in the second half,” Greenwood said. “Quickness is actually our strong suit and I thought Dez (Armijo) and (Contreras), who had the assignment of guarding her in the second half, did a great job.”

In the fourth, Armijo canned a nine-foot jumper to make the score 41-37 in favor of Pojoaque, but Camille Martinez hit two consecutive shots to push the score to 45-38. Contreras hit a smart pull-up jump shot from inside the paint to extend the Elkettes’ lead to 49-40, but Theresa Chavez and Bryahna Baca each powered in their own layups to pull the Lady Warriors to within 49-44 with just 3 minutes and 15 seconds to play in the game.

If things hadn’t gone borderline bonkers by that point, they were about to. A minute later Armijo hit another jumper to make the score 51-46 in favor of Pojoaque, then Chavez stepped up to the charity stripe with 1:15 left and calmly sank two clutch foul shots to pull Socorro to within two points. On the ensuing PHS possession, Law was in the right place at the right time when she turned a bad Elkettes airball into a basket, then with 41 seconds remaining Armijo sank two more free throws to cut the lead to 53-51.

To the chagrin and probable utter disbelief of Pojoaque fans, Contreras came up with a steal with 25 seconds left in the contest and hit a fast-break layup to tie the game at 53.

After Gaby Gonzales sunk a free throw at the opposite end to give Pojoaque Valley a one-point advantage, the roundball gods seemingly turned their back on the Lady Warriors.

With 15 short tics left on the scoreboard, Socorro had a fantastic look at a point-blank and potential game-winning layup, but it slowly rolled off the right side of the iron. If football is a game of inches, basketball is a game of centimeters and the Lady Warriors couldn’t quite get a handle on the rebound. The ball bounced into the arms of Contreras, and Socorro was forced to foul her with fewer than eight seconds left.

When her foul shot uncharacteristically bounced off the back of the iron, there was a moment of hope. When Law snatched the offensive rebound out of the air and put it back as time ran out, that hope had turned to something else.

And it definitely wasn’t despair on any level as the home team roared back from a rather large hole and almost beat a very good basketball team. Plus, it’s only three games into the season now, and when Socorro patches up some issues and plays a full game, it’ll be less than fun for opponents to contend with.

“It seems that our turnovers have been coming in the first half,” Greenwood said. She pointed out 17 giveaways in the first half against Belen, then 16 against Bernalillo, both games they managed to win.

“We’re closing out games really, really well. We’ve got to make this a four-quarter game instead of just a two-quarter game. We can’t just be playing around with teams. We’ve got to play with the intensity and take care of the ball in the first half as well.”

Armijo led the Lady Warriors with 11 points while Monette and Chavez chipped in nine apiece. Contreras scored seven, Pyke and Baca recorded six points each for Socorro, and Amanda Saenz scored five.

Socorro has a week off to prepare before it plays host to West Las Vegas on Dec. 11. The Dons are currently 3-0 and their smallest margin of victory this season is 15 points.

Tip off at Socorro High School is slated for 5:30 p.m.