Lady Warriors come within points of consolation championship

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When they took the court against Centennial on Saturday afternoon, the Lady Warriors were coming off a win over Sandia Prep Friday on Dec. 27 and were looking to capture the championship trophy in the consolation bracket of the Village of Los Lunas Holiday Classic.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro guard Amanda Saenz tries to drive past Centennial’s Raquel Yniguez during their game on Saturday in Los Lunas. Saenz scored 17 points in a 50-45 loss.

For about 28 minutes during the game against the Hawks, Socorro looked like it had gotten back in to the type of rhythm it found in the season’s opening weeks. After all was said and done at Los Lunas High School, the Lady Warriors looked shocked and stunned at the sight of a scoreboard that had left them on the losing end of a game they should have won.

Centennial outscored Socorro 19-2 in the fourth quarter in rallying to an unlikely 50-45 victory.

The loss dropped the Lady Warriors to 6-7 on the season while Centennial improved to 8-5.

Except for the final four or five minutes, Socorro put together a complete and consistent effort against the Hawks. The press forced turnovers and its offense displayed a brand of aggressiveness it might have been lacking in so far.

At the end of the first half the Warriors had built a 28-17 lead, and after three quarters they were in control with a 43-31 advantage. Socorro was up by as many as 17 at one point, and it looked like all they needed to do to win was protect the ball and play solid defense.

But no one, probably not even the Hawks, could have predicted the proverbial point explosion the fans on hand were about to witness.

Apparently Savannah Herandez and Azia Jones remembered how well they can crank the 3-ball, and when Hernandez hit her third of the game to cut the Socorro lead to 45-41 four three minutes remaining the Lady Warriors were on the verge of going into panic mode. When Jones hit another 3-pointer 60 seconds later to give her team a 48-45 lead, Socorro was struggling to find a way to put the ball in the bucket and find the answers that came so easily to them during the first three periods.

The Lady Warriors were by no means taking themselves out of the fight and they continued to play aggressively on both ends of the court; the basketball simply wasn’t finding the bottom of the net. Combined with the NBA Jam-like shooting display the opposition was putting on, it just turned into a less-than-favorable situation for Socorro.

Celeste Madrid knocked down two free throws in the waning moments of the contest to help complete a comeback consisting of a 19-2 game-ending run for Centennial.

The loss may have been, to understate the fact, a tough one to swallow for Socorro but it was by no means so devastating that the experienced and competitive Lady Warriors can’t bounce back from it.

“We gave one up. We’ve got to finish games in those situations,” Socorro head coach Marleen Greenwood said. “We’ve got to find somebody that’s going to take control. Clear their head, and take control of the situation and just kind of slow the whole thing down.”

And just three days after Greenwood said she was concerned about the progress of her team’s full court press, it showed how quickly it responds by executing the press as well as it has all season, if not better.

“I think our press looks pretty good,” Greenwood said. “We’re doing a whole lot better at cutting off the sideline, which was an issue in Pojoaque we didn’t get fixed until we got here. But it looks a lot better.”

Amanda Seanz also seems to be emerging as both a reliable guard and a considerable scoring threat. She scored 17 points, was continually aggressive in getting to the basket and took good care of the ball.

Socorro’s overall aggressiveness was no accident either, but more a point of emphasis for Greenwood and her squad.

“We started talking about that yesterday,” she said. “Our game against Del Norte, we only had nine steals, which is crazy considering we pressed the entire game. I told them, as a whole, we had to be more aggressive defensively. We did that (Dec. 28 against Sandia Prep), and obviously came up with a win.”

Bryahna Baca scored 11 points for Socorro and Ashton Monette 10. Savannah Hernandez scored 18 points for the Hawks while Azia Jones added 11.

Up next for the Lady Warriors is Laguna, a powerhouse team that will present a challenge for Socorro. But at least it will have more than a day to prepare for the 10-2 Hawks. The game isn’t until Jan. 4, but it’s an away contest for the road-weary Lady Warriors.

“We’ve got a tough one coming up with Laguna,” Greenwood said. “They’re legit. They (the Lady Warriors) get three days to prepare and then it’s back to the grindstone.”

Tip-off in Laguna is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Tuesday.