BERNALILLO – Like Mescalero’s girls the day before, the Hondo girls’ lack of free throw shooting came into play near the very end of their Class 1A State quarterfinal game against Animas on Wednesday.
Hondo couldn’t make its free throws with less than a minute left, and the Lady Panthers were able to tie it at the end of regulation.
But the Lady Eagles were able to score all six points in overtime to take a 39-33 victory to move on.
“It’s stuff we practiced and just being able to execute,” said Hondo coach Alice Velasquez. “The girls played with an extreme amount of heart, they never got down on themselves. That shows how much our program has grown.”
After going ahead by two points on a jump shot by Joyce Ann Cooper, the Lady Eagles worked to hold and pass the ball as much as possible in the final 2½ minutes and force Animas to foul.
Foul the Lady Panthers did, but Hondo missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Animas’ Penne Duncan scored a jumper to tie it at 33-all with 1:02 left.
Animas (20-8) later turned the ball over with four seconds left, but the Lady Eagles couldn’t get the ball down court fast enough, and the game went into the extra period.
The fact it was even close near the end, though, is kind of amazing. Throughout the game, Hondo (24-4) couldn’t get rebounds. Of Animas’ 39 boards, 21 of them were offensive.
“Yes, they were beating us on the boards, but they outsize us by a good three or four inches,” Velasquez said. “They’re athletic girls, so we forced them to shoot the outside shots and we capitalized on that in the third quarter.”
The Lady Panthers relied heavily on Tierney Washburn, who scored all 14 of her team’s points in the first half. At the break, the score was Washburn 14, Hondo 12.
“We knew bout her (Washburn),” Velasquez said. “She just kind of got lost in the shuffle. We were so intent on our offense and making sure we were scoring, that I had to tell them in the locker room that we couldn’t let her beat us.”
Hondo cracked down defensively on Washburn in the second half, and it paid off. She had just five more points the rest of the way and ended up leading the game with 19 before fouling out in overtime.
Jade Massey had 10 points as well, but Duncan was the only other Lady Panther with any points.
Still, Washburn came up with a big three-pointer at the end of the third quarter – from half court – to keep her team in it.
Fallon Velasquez came up with 18 points to lead Hondo, while Joyce Ann Cooper added 12. The two were the deciding factor in this game, combining for all six points in overtime.
In fact, everything the Lady Eagles couldn’t do in regulation – offensive rebounds, free throws – they did right in the extra frame.
“We were thinking, it’s now or never,” said Fallon. “We had to leave it all out there and execute everything. This could have been our last game.”
This was the most points Cooper had scored in a game in a long time. It’s not like she hadn’t contributed before with assists and rebounds, but getting 12 points made things a bit more fun for her.
Well, that and the fact her team won.
“We had to step up and take those big shots, or try to anyway,” Cooper said. “That was really fun.”
Hondo plays either No. 1 Elida or Grady in the State semifinals, March 9, at Bernalillo at 4:45 p.m.
Conventional wisdom says it will be the Lady Tigers facing up next against Hondo, but coach Velasquez said they’ve got to be ready, no matter who it is.
“We’ll make mistakes, but they will too. That’s a guarantee,” Velasquez said. “They might be better at executing, but that has yet to be seen. If we can just stay in the game, that will be great.”
“We approach it the same way, play every second,” Cooper added. “Go out there, have fun, play hard and hope for the best.”