BERNALILLO – Disappointing doesn’t even begin to describe this game for Mescalero players, coaches, parents and fans.
After a barn-burner with lead changes and a seemingly inevitable ending, the Lay Chiefs couldn’t find the bucket from the free throw line down the stretch and dropped a 54-52 decision to Fort Sumner in the Class 2A State quarterfinals, March 7.
“We were really tight today, missed a lot of free throws, and I was surprised,” said Mescalero coach Elmer Chavez. “If we make two free throws near the end, we win the game.”
After falling behind 7-0 to start the game, the Lady Chiefs (24-7) was able to stop the bleeding to crawl to within six at the end of the first quarter.
The lead was cut all the way to two at halftime, as Mescalero went on a modest 4-0 run to keep things interesting.
“I thought we fought hard, came back and didn’t give up,” Chavez said. “I was proud of our girls.”
Then came the third quarter, when the Lady Chiefs opened with a 3-pointer by Katelyn Yuzos and then went on an 8-2 run to take the lead.
Yuzos ended up with 13 points to lead her team, while sister Lauryn Yuzos finished with 12 and Janessa Melendrez added 11 points.
But Mescalero could never get more than three points ahead, and the Vixens (20-9) eventually caught up and passed with their superior free throw shooting.
Micah Crist and Claudia Torres both scored 18 points to pace Fort Sumner, with Torres going 8-for-10 from the line.
As a team, the Vixens were 16-21 in free throws, while Mescalero shot just 23 percent from the line.
Indeed, those missed free throws came back to haunt the Lady Chiefs.
Things got really intense near the end, as Katelyn Yuzos was able to get a steal and score to make it 51-49 with 1:42 left. The Lady Chiefs later took the lead on a three-pointer by Alyn Kirgan, and then Lauryn Yuzos was able to block a shot at the other end.
Katelyn was then fouled, but neither shot would fall. However, the foul was ruled intentional, and the Lady Chiefs still had the ball and a one-point lead with 49 seconds left.
Nothing happened offensively, and the Vixens eventually regained the lead on a jumper by Karla Peredez with 33 seconds left.
They were the only points by Peredez in the game.
Tunte Baca was later fouled on a three-point attempt with 19 seconds left, but again, no shots would fall, and the Lady Chiefs simply ran out of time.
“We could be real good, but we need to win these games,” Chavez said. “To get to the next level, we need to finish the job when we play these teams. We had them down, had the free throws and the ball, and we should have beat them. But that’s the way it goes”