MESCALERO – A loss to Lordsburg meant the Mescalero Lady Chief basketball team didn’t get to host the District 3-2A championship.
A loss to Cliff in the third round of the tournament meant they wouldn’t get to be in the championship game at all.
That almost happened, but a last-second rebound by Katlyn Yuzos was able to secure a 50-49 win to propel Mescalero into tonight’s championship game.
“Cliff has a great team, and a lot of people couldn’t pick the winner in this district between Lordsburg, us and Cliff,” said Mescalero coach Elmer Sanchez. “It’s been a good, tough district, and it’s prepared us well for state.”
Mescalero (23-5) couldn’t find the bucket for the most part. Players like Yuzos, and Tunte Baca found their shots – normally dead-on – just weren’t falling.
But guard Janessa Melendrez did her part – slicing to the bucket and getting layups or getting fouled. She ended up with 22 points.
Center Lauryn Yuzos also had a good night with 13 points.
“They’re like us, they’re a good team that plays hard,” Yuzos said of the Cowgirls. “They want it as bad as we do and I’m glad we won.
“We just told ourselves at halftime to keep pushing, we wanted this,” she added. “It’s our turn this year.”
Valeri Overstreet led Cliff with 18 points, while Jamie Jekins had 12.
This was a close game all the way through, but things got particularly interesting near the very end, as Cliff (16-12) was able to take a 49-48 lead on a jumper by Overstreet with 35 seconds left.
Melendrez was later fouled and her two foul shots at 28 seconds gave her team the final advantage.
But the drama wasn’t over. The Cowgirls were called for a backcourt violation with 13 seconds left, but Mescalero returned the favor with a backcourt violation of their own.
On the ensuring possession, Cliff’s shot was off, and Katlyn Yuzos came down with the rebound and was fouled.
She couldn’t make either of her foul shots, but by the time Cliff had recovered the rebound, it was too late.
This game was very similar to Mescalero’s 59-48 loss to Lordsburg in a playoff to determine the district’s top seed, Feb. 21, at Las Cruces Oñate.
In that one, Sanchez said the problem was a short burst of turnovers.
“It was weird, because we were up 37-30 after three quarters,” Sanchez said. “In the fourth quarter, we missed four 1-and-1’s in a row, and then we had four turnovers in a row. That’s when they caught up and we just kind of rolled over.”
Now Mescalero has to face Lordsburg again in the district title game, and then it’s a likely high seed in the upcoming State tournament.
Chavez is confident his team will be at home in the first round.
“This game got us ready for the next level, and our next game will have that kind of intensity,” Chavez said. “I look at us being a three or four seed.”