Horsemen corral the Warriors

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The roundball Warriors played host to St. Michael’s on Jan. 11, and the Horsemen from Santa Fe dealt Socorro a 49-23 home loss.

The Warriors fell to 3-10 on the season and St. Mike’s improved to 7-6.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Ethan Smith tries to go over the top of St. Mike’s Justin Flores on Friday night at Socorro High School. Smith scored six points for the Warriors.

It was a traditional tale of two halves at Socorro High School as the home team played stout defense during the first two quarters, but simply couldn’t find any consistent offensive rhythm in the second half. The Horsemen were held to just 17 points before halftime, but outscored the Warriors 32-12 combined in the third and fourth quarters.

Points were coming at a premium during the first 16 minutes of Friday’s contest, and that was no accident. Socorro head coach Lawrence Baca knew how difficult it would be to guard St. Mike’s one on one, so he schemed around it.

“They run a lot of picks, a lot of curl cuts, and just a lot of stuff that kind of gets confusing if you go man to man,” he said. “We played a 1-3-1 zone. I think defensively we did a good job to where we held them.”

In the early going that game plan was extremely effective. Socorro took a 9-6 lead heading into the second quarter when Ethan Smith banked in a six-foot transition jumper, and the Horsemen offense was having trouble figuring out the Warriors zone.

But St. Mike’s went on an 11-2 run to end the half, and Daniel Ortega’s rebound and pulback in the waning moments of the second quarter gave his team the 17-11 lead going into the locker room.

In the third quarter, the Horsemen began executing their full-court press well, taking the Warriors completely out of their offensive sets and making it hard to find points.

St. Mike’s opened up a 27-15 lead when Gabe Pino hit two free throws with two minutes and 23 seconds remaining in the quarter, then Kameron Romero knocked down a baseline 3-pointer as time expired in the third to push the Horsemen’s lead to 32-15.

Again Socorro proved it can score when it gets into its half-court offense, but again turnovers proved to be the difference.

Baca said it’s no secret his team needs to protect the ball and limit turnovers to be successful.

“When we play against a team that puts on a little bit of pressure, we tend to struggle,” he said. “Bottom line is, that’s where we’re struggling this year. Not being able to handle the ball. That’s what limits our offensive looks.”

Smith and Brendon Rosales led Socorro with six points each and Matthew Jojola added five.

Jeff Groenewold scored 12 points for the Horsemen and Romero had 10. The loss may have been another tough one for the Warriors, but those losses are by no means coming against lesser competition. Five of Socorro’s opponents thus far are ranked in the Maxpreps Class 3A top 10 in the state, and the schedule isn’t looking to ease up anytime soon.

Baca and his squad are looking at the schedule as an opportunity more than a hindrance.

“The positive is we’re going to be tested and ready for district,” Baca said. “We’ve played all the top teams in the state, especially when it comes to triple-A. We know what they’ve got and we know what we’re up against. So we’re battle tested.”

The Warriors played second-ranked Sandia Prep yesterday, and this weekend they’ll travel to Albuquerque to play in the Hope Christian Invite. On Jan. 22 Socorro hits the road again to play 11th ranked Wingate before beginning District 3-3A play at Hot Springs on Feb. 1.