MESCALERO – This year’s edition of the Mescalero Classic basketball tournament came down to a pair of schools who are very, very familiar with one another.
Hondo and Mescalero’s boys and girls teams had already faced one another at the beginning of December, and their rematch in the third place and championship games on Dec. 17 had similar outcomes.
Hondo’s boys bounced back from being down 8-0 early to fly to a 64-33 victory, while the Mescalero Lady Chiefs won their second tournament in two weeks, with a 50-36 win.
Mescalero’s girls won by a bit tighter score than the last time they played Hondo at the beginning of the season, mainly because the Lady Eagles’ defense was a little better.
“All the way around, we’re looking for a complete set, and we’re getting there,” said Hondo girls coach Alice Velasquez. “The point differential speaks for itself, we clawed right back into it, but I don’t feel we scored as often as we should have.”
For the Lady Chiefs, Janessa Melendrez was Miss Everything, scoring 21 points and being named as the tournament MVP.
While the individual accolades were terrific, Melendrez said she’s more proud of how the team has done to amass a 9-1 record, and looks forward to the Striking Eagle tournament starting Dec. 28.
“Coach tells us we just have to keep running and running, so we’ll work hard over the break and get ready for the Striking Eagle,” Melendrez said. “I feel very confident in my team, we’ve come a long way now.”
Melendrez’ total was more than enough to offset the Lady Eagles’ triple threat of Fallon Velasquez, Joyce Ann Cooper and Chase Dictson, who combined for 33 points.
Like Mescalero, the Lady Eagles (6-3) don’t play again until a tournament, but that doesn’t happen until Jan. 5, the first game of the Capitan Smokey Bear Tournament.
Coach Velasquez isn’t that happy with that long a break, but she can see the silver lining.
“It gives us some time to heal our wounds,” Velasquez said. “We can work on extra plays and adjustments. We just need more repetition on everything we’ve installed.”
While Mescalero is on a high having won its second straight tournament – and second straight Mescalero Classic title – coach Elmer Sanchez warns about getting too big a head.
Last season, the Lady Chiefs were 10-1 heading into the Striking Eagle, but fell to Tse Yi Gai in the championship and then lost three of their next four games.
“I’m very excited and proud of this team. They’ve worked hard and put it back together,” Chavez said. “When you win a tournament, the team can get complacent and I have to get them back to work.
“But they are working together finally, and they’ve seen that when they play together, they’re strong,” he added.
Hondo boys third
The score for the boys’ game was almost identical to the Eagles’ season opener, a 50-32 final, showing at least that Hondo could score more.
“The first half was really bad,” said Hondo boys coach Ben Sanchez. “That first half, we just didn’t play basketball like we wanted to. At halftime, we went over all our plays and in the third quarter, we were a whole different team.”
Like in their game against Quemado, the Eagles (5-3) tended to get a little out of control and taking shots they shouldn’t have.
That’s part of the reason Mescalero (4-6) was able to score the game’s first eight points, but then Hondo got went on an 8-point run of its own and tied it at 3:27 left on a layup by Antonio Vazquez.
“After that, I thought I saw some of the kids’ heads start to hang down,” said Mescalero coach Randy Courtney. “I saw some things out there that showed me we have to go back to fundamentals.”
After taking a 15-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Eagles really took off with a 17-2 run to start the next frame and were never really threatened until the end, when both teams emptied their benches.
Miguel Gonzales led the Eagles with 15 points, followed by Porfirio Romero with 11.
No Chief was in double figures, as Aloysius Comanche led the team with 9 points.
Like the girls, the Hondo boys won’t play until the Smokey Bear, while the boys will be at the Striking Eagle.
“These two weeks will be good for us,” Sanchez said. “We can really get down to it and work on things. We have to buckle down and find out what we have to do. We’ll get Christmas and New Year off, the rest of the time we’ll be working.”
“We’ll rebound, work out Monday and Tuesday before the break,” Courtney said. “We just need time in the gym.”