MESCALERO – This basketball season, the Mescalero girls are on a mission to show they can finally get that elusive win in the Class 2A State quarterfinals, to show they can get to the Pit in Albuquerque, to show they can finally bring home a blue trophy.
For one quarter against Escalante on March 2, it almost looked as though the Chiefs wouldn’t make it out of the first round.
Mescalero trailed 14-10 after the first quarter before their layups finally started falling, finishing with a 59-42 victory to move on in the playoffs.
Things were rough for Mescalero to start, partly because the girls had their regular schedule disrupted by a lockdown at the school following a threat. State and tribal police, BIA officials, fire and rescue were all present and stayed for the game as a precaution.
“We were ready to play, but then the lockdown came on and we had to go back and change. When we started the game, we weren’t ready,” said Mescalero coach Elmer Chavez. “I’m really disappointed in whatever kid made that threat and threw us off.”
Things were secure, but that didn’t mean the Chiefs (27-1) didn’t have all that in the back of their minds.
“We were kind of freaked out, but once the game started, we were able to get our heads in the game,” Fossum said. “I was happy once I started making the free throws, I was feeling confident.”
Fossum was pretty much the reason the Chiefs were within striking distance at the beginning, and kept their lead at the end, going 14-for-14 at the foul line and putting in 22 points.
That includes a particularly graceful reverse layup that put her team up 37-32 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
Of course, Fossum wasn’t the only player on the floor for Mescalero. Fallon Velasquez made plenty of layups and was 9-for-12 at the charity stripe to lead her team with 24 points, while Katelyn Yuzos had 11 points and hauled in 21 rebounds on the night.
“We didn’t hit a lot of outside shots, but we were making the layups, and that’s what we have to do to win these games,” Chavez said. “The name of the game right now is survive and advance.”
Mescalero may have been dealing with a lot of extra stuff off the court, but they also had a tough opponent in the Lobos (12-14) a team that was State runner up last season and had plenty of players back from that team.
That includes Tanisha Torrez, who led her team with 13 points, and Sarah Hurd, who was held to an uncharacteristic nine points before fouling out.
In fact, Escalante started to fall apart near the end, as Torrez, Aubrie Hinds and Makeely Garcia also fouled out near the end.
With the victory, Mescalero will face Lordsburg in the quarterfinals on March 6 at Bernalillo in the last game of the night, 8:15 p.m.
It will be the fifth time these two teams have played each other – once in the Cloudcroft Mountaintop Tournament, twice in district play and once in the District 3-2A championship. The Chiefs have won all four times, but the district title game wasn’t an easy one.
“That team (Escalante) was no slouch, and I’m just glad we could play and handle them,” Chavez said. “It was a good win for us.”