Despite the sad faces, the Escalante High School girls basketball team made school history by playing in their first state championship basketball game, losing to Tatum 43-30 March 10 at the Pit in Albuquerque. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Escalante Has History-Making Run At State, Loses In Championship Game
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
The Escalante High School Lady Lobos had one more game to win to complete their historic run at the 2017 Class 2A girls state basketball tournament. The sixth-seeded Lady Lobos, who had never had a postseason win, had soundly beaten third-seeded Lordsburg High School 55-35 in the state quarterfinals March 7 at Bernalillo High School.
Advancing to the semifinals March 9, Escalante shocked second-seeded Logan High School 47-46 to advance to the Class 2A state championship game against top-seeded Tatum High School. The Lady Lobos were headed to the Pit in Albuquerque March 10 for the first time in school history.
“It’s a dream come true,” point guard Tanisha Torrez said.
Escalante’s Tanisha Torrez tries to penetrate against Tatum’s defense. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Some dreams do come true and some don’t. Escalante’s dream of bringing the first girls state championship back to Tierra Amarilla was terminated by Tatum, who took a 43-30 victory. The Lady Coyotes are no stranger to state championship games, having won it all in 2014 and losing to Melrose in 2015.
That experience helped the Coyotes stay in the game despite missing 20 of their first 22 shots in the first half. Escalante worked the inside to take an 8-1 lead in the first quarter. Sarah Hurd had a pair of baskets in the paint sandwiched around a basket by 6-foot post Tori Salazar. Ephernie Domingo scored on a putback before Celeste Jimenez finally sank a basket for Tatum to make the score 8-3 at the end of the first quarter.
The shooting woes weren’t limited to the Coyotes and that allowed Tatum to stay in the game. Torrez, who had scored 22 points in the victory over Logan, did not score in the first half. The Lobos were just 1-of-6 from the free throw line and 7-of-24 from the field, missing all of their three-point attempts. Tatum chipped away at the lead and created turnovers that gave them extra scoring opportunities. That helped to compensate for the Coyotes shooting a woeful 15-percent (4-of-27) in the first half. A steal and layup by Kenna McNeil tied the game at 13-13 with 1:44 left in the second quarter. A basket by Domingo from the top of the key gave the Lobos a 15-13 lead at halftime.
Escalante’s Rikki Rivas goes in for a layup against Tatum. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
“Our defense kept us in games all year long,” Tatum Coach Greg Slover said. “I knew we’d hit some shots sooner or later.”
Escalante had given the ball to Tatum eight times in the first half. In the second half, the turnovers turned into a tsunami. Tatum forced the Lobos into 20 turnovers. After Escalante took a 17-13 lead on another basket by Hurd, the Coyotes put together a 5-0 run to take an 18-17 lead. A basket by Domingo put the Lobos back in front. Tatum answered with baskets by Madison Rice and McNeil. Torrez had her only basket of the game to cut Tatum’s lead to a point. Adriana Duran answered for the Coyotes. A fast break layup by Rikki Rivas made the score 24-23 in favor of Tatum.
Escalante’s Sarah Hurd shots against Tatum. Hurd scored eight points. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
The Coyotes took control of the game after that with a 7-0 run to finish the third quarter. McNeil’s pullup jumper from 18 feet made the score 31-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Tatum spread their offense and ran it efficiently, forcing the Lobos to foul. Tatum was 10-of-13 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. It took Escalante over five minutes to score their first points in the fourth quarter. Near the end, Escalante’s Alex Marquez finally found the shooting range for the Lobos, canning Escalante’s only three-pointer and sinking a pair of free throws for the only time in the game the Lobos managed back-to-back charity tosses. It was too late to save Escalante. Logan claimed the state championship with a 43-30 victory.
After pulling off two upset victories to get to the championship game, the prospect of losing may have finally caught up with Escalante.
“I think it was fear of losing,” Escalante Coach Tara Terrazas-Martinez said. “That has crept up its ugly head on us every once in a while. In every loss that we had, that was a key factor. We wanted to win so bad we were afraid to lose.”
Escalante’s Rikki Rivas goes in for a layup against Tatum. Photo byGeorge Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Tatum knows what losing in big games is like. Prior to 2017, the Coyotes had been in five championship games since 2000 and won just one. They have learned not to be afraid of losing.
“I think it’s a natural tendency in a playoff game,” Coach Slover said. “You don’t want to mess up, so you don’t do anything.
Coach Terrazas-Martinez, a cancer survivor, knows that losing the game hurts, but her team has the strength to get over it.
“Wins and losses, it is what it is,” she said. “If I can raise strong, independent, God-loving women, then I’ve done my job. Each and every one of these girls is just that. They are strong. They are independent and I mean independent because they let me know that. The love they have and the faith they have in the Father and each other. It has been remarkable. This is a once-in-a-lifetime team.”
SEMIFINAL WIN OVER LOGAN
The fearless Escalante High School girls basketball team took down the second-seeded Logan High School Lady Longhorns 47-46 March 9 in the Class 2A semifinals at Bernalillo High School. Showing the resiliency instilled in them by Coach Tara Terrazas-Martinez, the Lady Lobos trailed 38-30 going into the fourth quarter. Escalante took advantage of a strange shift in tactics by Logan Coach Rhyan Daugherty to fire themselves up and nine big points from point guard Tanisha Torrez to upset the Lady Longhorns 47-46 and advance to the Class 2A state championship game.
Escalante’s Tanisha Torrez scored 22 points in the Lady Lobos 47-46 upset over logan High Schoolin the Class 2A semifinals. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Logan was shooting the lights out from three-point range, hitting 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Logan was shooting over 50 percent from the floor and leading 38-32 when Coach Daugherty had Jordan Hines go into a stall, holding the ball near midcourt. Hines did not miss a shot during the game, hitting three three-pointers, a two-point basket and sinking 2-of-2 free throws. Now she was holding the ball on her hip in an attempt to get Escalante to come out of its zone.
It was like flipping a switch, except it was the Longhorns who turned off and the Lobos who turned on.
“Once they stalled, to me, that was fear,” Coach Terrazas-Martinez said.
The Longhorns turned the ball over twice and missed a driving layup. Torrez drove in for a layup, then sank a free throw to make it 38-36. After two free throws by Logan’s Kaylee Foote, Escalante’s Alex Marquez sank two free throws to make the score 40-38.
Foote scored inside, but Torrez answered with a pair of free throws. With 2:27 left in the game. Torrez drove across the lane to the right baseline and sank a soft jumper to tie the score. After Logan missed a free throw, Torrez went to work again and sank a carbon-copy of her previous shot to give Escalante a 44-42 lead.
Karli Webb made 1-of-2 from the free-throw line to make the score 44-43. Ephernie Domingo sank a pair of free throws to extend Escalante’s lead to three points. With 59 seconds left in the game, Hines nailed her third three-pointer to tie the score 46-46.
Logan had their chance to take the lead when with 22.9 seconds left, Foote went to the free-throw line to shoot a pair. She missed both, then blew a point-blank putback after grabbing the rebound off her second miss.
With 8.7 seconds left to play, Escalante’s Rayann Mora was fouled. She went to the line and made her first free throw. After she missed her second, Logan’s Harlie Roach dribbled quickly downcourt. Roach had hit back-to-back three-pointers to end the first half and give Logan a 28-25 lead. This time, she pulled up and took a three-pointer that could have won the game.
Her shot rattled out. Logan grabbed the rebound but couldn’t score on a putback. The Lobos were headed to the Class 2A championship game after holding on for a 47-46 victory.
For Coach Terrazas-Martinez, a cancer survivor, the victory was a testament to her team’s mental and physical strength. She starts to develop that strength during the offseason in Escalante’s weight room.
“I feel that if I can build their physical strength, I can get their mental strength like that,” she said. “When it comes to adversity, it’s nothing. I always kinda joke with the girls. “I had cancer.’ Nothing scares me anymore.’”
LOBOS MAUL MAVERICKS IN QUARTERFINALS
The Lady Lobos dominated the Lordsburg High School Lady Mavericks during their 55-35 victory in the Class 2A state quarterfinals March 7 at Bernalillo High School. The Mavericks looked so inept against the Lobos in the first half that one had to question how they earned a three-seed in the Class 2A state tournament and Escalante got a six-seed.
Escalante’s Tori Salazar scored 23 points in the Lady Lobos 55-35 win over Lordsburg in the Class 2A quarterfinals. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Escalante led from start to finish. The Lobos scored the game’s first six points and led 20-8 at the end of the first quarter after Torrez’s three-pointer from the corner at the buzzer. Escalante led 29-13 at halftime. Lordsburg hit just 5-of-27 shots in the first half and sank just one of their 10 three-point attempts. The Lobos’ Tori Salazar dominated inside and led all scorers with 23 points while hauling down a dozen rebounds.