MESCALERO – For the second week in a row, Mescalero’s girls basketball team won a tournament title.
For the first time ever in the history of the Mescalero Holiday Classic, their game was followed by their counterparts in the boys’ title game.
The Chief girls, winners of the previous week’s Mountaintop Tournament at Cloudcroft, earned the title trophy, Dec. 16, with a 51-46 victory over Quemado.
Things didn’t go as well for the boys in a 60-20 loss to Gateway Christian.
Against Quemado, the Mescalero girls (11-0) found some stiff competition from a scrappy team that wasn’t impressed with the Chiefs’ unbeaten record.
For coach Elmer Chavez, that’s exactly what his team needed.
“When you play at State, you can’t always play well, and you have to win the ugly games sometimes,” Chavez said.
Quemado (8-4) had the lead for much of the first quarter, thanks mostly to the play and hustle of Angela Lackey, who scored nine of her team-high 18 points in the frame.
Basically, the Eagles were beating Mescalero at its own game.
“I knew they were tough, and they took us out of our own stuff, we couldn’t run anything, in the first half,” Chavez said. “Second half, we went into a box-and-1 and controlled the tempo. Once we got the lead, we kept working it.”
Eventually, the Chiefs got the lead by halftime, having to run a set offense. That slowed the game down so much, neither team scored for the final 2:48 in the second quarter.
Mescalero never trailed after that, although the Eagles made it interesting near the end, getting to within three points numerous times before a layup by Romona Fossum finally put the game out of reach.
Fossum finished with eight points, while Fallon Velasquez put in 18 to tie Lackey for the game lead.
“We had to match their intensity and pressure, and I think we did,” Chavez said.
Boys face difficulties
One thing is certain, Gateway Christian’s boys basketball team is very good.
But Mescalero coach Adam Herrera doesn’t think they’re that much better than his team.
“I never thought we’d be 35-pointed by them,” Herrera said after the loss, referring to the mercy rule which dictates a running clock after a 35-point lead.
Herrera’s disappointment isn’t surprising. When Mescalero (7-3) and Gateway last faced off in the third game of the season, the Warriors (7-1) barely survived with a 42-40 victory.
Of course, that game featured Mescalero players Aloysius Comanche and Cullen Orozco, both of whom were absent in the Mescalero Classic championship game.
Orozco was on the bench with a broken nose he had suffered the night before in his team’s win over Capitan in the semifinals.
“That more than hurt, the demeanor on the team, they were down,” Herrera said of the missing players’ impact. “We’re still a young team and they didn’t know how to handle it.”
Alonzo Grajeda and Jaydon Stephens each had 12 points for the Chiefs.
Gateway, meanwhile, poured it on with three players in double figures – Jayden Stephens and Wyatt Arlett with 12 points each and Joe Waide with 11.