Escalante Defeats Mesa Vista 44-41 To Win Girls NRG title
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
It’s said that faith can move mountains. Faith certainly helped the Escalante High School Lady Lobos defeat Mesa Vista High School 44-41 to win their first championship at the Northern Rio Grande Tournament Jan. 9 at Pojoaque Valley High School.
Sophomore point guard Tenisha Torrez of Escalante had faith in the Lord, while Escalante Coach Tara Terrazas-Martinez had faith in Torrez.
Whether it was divine intervention or her skill as a basketball player, Torrez showed no fear as she confidently fired up a three-pointer with less than a minute left in the game. Her team was trailing 40-37 after two free throws by the Lady Trojans’ Veronica Varela. Torrez’s shot hit nothing but net, tying the game.
“I believe in the Lord,” Torrez said. “I believe in my team.”
Terrazas-Martinez had no doubts about whether or not Torrez should have taken the shot, nor any doubts about whether it would go in.
“We needed some big shots from her,” Terrazas-Martinez said. “I trust her to make it and I knew it was going in. I have confidence in every single one of my girls because if I don’t they won’t.”
There was still plenty of drama left to play out before the Lobos could claim their victory. Mesa Vista’s Santana Marquez sank a free throw with 34 seconds left in the game to give her team a 41-40 lead.
On the Lobos next possession, Torrez dribbled to her left and the defense followed her. Torrez whipped a pass across the court to an open Sarah Hurd, who banked in a basket that gave the Lobos a 42-41 lead.
“I wanted to do it for my team because we’ve worked so hard,” Hurd said.
After a timeout, the Trojans got the ball to Marquez in the right corner. She drove the baseline, but was cut off and appeared to be trapped. She finally fed the ball out to Azalea (Azzy) Griego, who threw up a three-pointer that hit nothing but net and apparently gave the Trojans the lead.
Unfortunately, Mesa Vista Coach Robert Howard had called a timeout just before Griego launched her shot.
“Marquez was to drive and shoot, drawing a foul,” Howard said. “When she kicked it out, we were to set up a play.”
In another cruel twist of fate, the play that was set up went haywire. The inbounds pass was supposed to go to the high post, but Varela tried to force a pass in to a teammate under the basket in heavy traffic. The ball was knocked around and Torrez came up with it. She was fouled. Still believing, she sank both free throws to give Escalante a 44-41 lead with five seconds left.
Griego’s desperation three-pointer was well short and the Lobos celebrated their victory.
“It’s huge because all of the teams in our district (5AA) were at this tournament,” Hurd said. “It will give us confidence going in to district play.”
The game was hard-fought from the start. Escalante led 13-12 at the end of the first quarter. The Trojans came back to lead 24-21 at halftime. The score was tied 32-32 at the end of the third quarter.
Torrez finished with 14 points to lead the Lobos. Alex Marquez had 12 points and Hurd contributed 10 points.
Santana Marquez led all scorers with 16 points. Maryssa Martin had 10 points for the Trojans.
Escalante had defeated Penasco 46-37 Jan. 7 in the opening round of the tournament. The Lobos beat local rival Dulce High School 48-33 in the semifinals to reach the championship game.
It was a rough roller coaster ride for Mesa Vista junior Azalea (Azzy) Griego at the Northern Rio Grande Tournament. Tears filled her eyes after her team’s 44-41 loss Jan. 9 to Escalante in the championship game. Her three-pointer with nine seconds left in the game that had apparently given the Lady Trojans a 43-41 lead had been negated because Mesa Vista Coach Robert Howard had called a time out just before the shot.
Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post
Those same eyes had been bright and filled with excitement after her three-pointer with seven seconds left in the game had given the Trojans a 53-51 lead against the Mora Rangerettes Jan. 8 in the tournament semifinals. Mesa Vista went on to win the game by the same score and advance to the championship game.
“It was me or this other girl who was going to shoot it and go for the win,” Griego said. “I was picturinghow it would be if I got the ball. I was short on my shots all night. I wanted to get more legs. Maryssa (Martin) drove, passed me the ball and we did it.”
Coach Howard had called the play after Mora’s Briana Pacheco had given the Rangerettes the lead 51-50 with a basket with 15 seconds left in the game.
“I told them heart was going to win this game,” Coach Howard said. “They’re loaded with heart.”
Griego was returning to the tournament after injuring her knee at last year’s Northern Rio Grande and missing the rest of the season. Without her, the Trojans suffered through a 3-23 season.
“It’s amazing,” Griego said. “It’s different. We’re a team. Everybody working together. He’s (Howard) has been a miracle for us.”
The game was a seesaw battle throughout. Mora led 19-10 after the first quarter. Mesa Vista came back in the second quarter and trailed by just a point 26-25at halftime. The Rangerettes led 43-39 going into the fourth quarter.
Griego had 17 points for Mesa Vista. Veronica Varela scored 15 points for the Trojans.
Mesa Vista defeated Questa 53-32 Jan. 7 in the opening round of the tournament. Griego had 18 points in that victory and Varela finished with 13 points.
The Dulce High School Lady Hawks picked up their second win of the season and had the first big upset at this year’s Northern Rio Grande Tournament, defeating McCurdy Charter School 50-44 Jan. 7 in the opening round of the tournament.
McCurdy was the top seed going into the tournament. The Lady Bobcats made a run after trailing 44-32 at the end of the third quarter. The Bobcats missed 22 free throws and that hurt their attempt to come back.
Dezirae Harrison led Dulce with 15 points. Karla Santos scored 14 points for McCurdy
The Hawks would lose their next two games, falling to Escalante 48-33 in the semifinals and losing to Mora 37-25 in the third-place game. McCurdy would lose to Penasco 44-42 in the consolation semifinals, scoring just two points in the fourth quarter. The Bobcats would salvage something in the game for seventh place, defeating Questa 28-18 Jan. 9 in a low-scoring game.