MESCALERO – Through three quarters Feb. 6, the Lordsburg girls basketball team was doing things that Mescalero is usually well-known for – passing, steals, buckets in transition, rebounding.
As a result, the Mavericks held a 42-33 lead at the end of the third period and seemed poised to hand the Chiefs only their second loss on the season.
But things turned around for Mescalero in the fourth quarter, as they held their opponent to just six points in that final frame and escaped with a 52-48 victory.
“They were well prepared for us and were doing things against us that we couldn’t stop,” said Mescalero coach Elmer Chavez. “We started putting two guards on their big girl, the press started working, and we hit a couple of shots to give us the win.”
Except for a pair of brief leads in the first and second quarters, Mescalero (22-1, 5-0 District 3-2A) trailed the entire way until a layup by Fallon Velasquez – and the ensuing foul shot – gave the Chiefs the 50-48 lead with 53 seconds left in the contest.
It was also a three-pointer by Velasquez – who finished with 12 points – that was part of a 10-2 run which got the Chiefs into striking distance.
That streak was started with a three-pointer by Alyn Kazhe-Kirgan, and a layup from Samantha Kazhe – off an assist from Katelyn Yuzos – got the team to within one with 2:41 left.
It was a hectic finale to a game that fans were either dreading or looking forward to, depending on which side of the court you were on.
Lordsburg (16-6, 3-2) came into the game looking to topple the Chiefs from their perch atop the district standings, and they almost did it, too, had they been able to keep up the pressure through the entire game.
“We were penetrating pretty deep into their zone, and that’s what was helping us,” said Lordsburg coach Rodney Plowman. “We made six points in the fourth quarter, and we’re not going to beat good teams like that. You just never know.”
Lordsburg had a decided size advantage with center Madison Miller, who led the game with 15 rebounds, but was only able to score six points. Analisa Castaneda, with her slick moves and speedy feet, cut to the basket for several layups and a game-high 21 points for the Mavericks.
Yuzos led the Chiefs with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Mescalero still has three more games in the regular season – away games at Mesilla Valley and Cliff and a home date against Cloudcroft – before the start of the district tournament. It’s a tournament championship the Chiefs are a prohibitive favorite to host barring a total collapse in those last three games.
“I going to call these girls the Cardiac Kids, because they love to give me a heart attack,” Chavez said. “They like the pressure of a close game, but I don’t like that.”
Boys win, but still struggle
Unlike the girls, Mescalero’s boys were in firm control for much of the game after a slightly shaky start. Things were tied at 8-all midway through the first quarter before the Chiefs went on a 9-2 run to eventually earn a 53-43 victory.
But a 10-point win was a much closer margin than it had been through the third quarter. It was much the same story as when the teams played in Lordsburg.
“We’d take a big lead, and we let them claw back into it,” Herrera said. “Actually, on the road it was worse, they were able to tie it there.”
Cullen Orosco had a monster game, pouring in 24 points, while George Rocha added 13 points and hauled in 11 rebounds.
Kristian DeLaO had 12 points to lead the Mavericks (7-15, 1-4) while Greg Cuevas added 11.
Mescalero (13-9, 3-2) survived a game similar to their losses to Fort Sumner and Gateway Christian, games they were either leading or competitive in before falling apart at the end.
Herrera also drew comparisons between Tuesday’s game and their win at Hagerman.
“It’s typical of these guys, we’ve got to learn how to finish,” Herrera said. “We had Hagerman down by 20 points and then win by 12. Twelve points doesn’t look like much compared to 20. These are the games we have to finish strong so we can win against stronger teams.”