By George Morse
The McCurdy Charter School Lady Bobcats are the defending District 2-2A champion. Last season, McCurdy hardy broke a sweat against its district rivals. The Bobcats cruised to an 8-0 district record, outscoring their opponents 508-107 in the process. Academy for Technology and the Classics (ATC), Desert Academy/Santa Fe Waldorf School, Tierra Encantada Charter School and Monte del Sol Charter School are relatively new girls basketball programs, while McCurdy has over 100 ears of tradition behind them. The other schools simply couldn’t compete with the Bobcats.
McCurdy is looking to repeat as District 2-2A champions this season, which will be their last in District 2-2A. McCurdy will join District 2-5A next season, facing some of its more traditional rivals like Penasco High School and Escalante High School. The crowds will be bigger and the competition stronger.
McCurdy’s road to this season’s District 2-2A title may not be quite as easy as it was last season. In the district opener for both teams, McCurdy came away with a victory over ATC Feb. 5 at McCurdy. The Phoenix made it a lot more interesting, battling back from over 20 points down before McCurdy was able to hold on for a 48-41 victory.
“I anticipated that,” McCurdy Coach Lucretia Williams said. “Coach Drake is a basketball guy. He had them well-prepared.”
Coach Williams was referring to Phoenix Coach Ron Drake. A long-time veteran of New Mexico girls high school basketball wars. Last season, he led the Pecos High School girls basketball team to their first state basketball championship. He resigned to take over and build the program at ATC. It was also a much-easier commute to work from his home in Sandia Park. ATC recently completed work on a new gym and will no longer be looking for a court to practice and play its games on.
“That was one of the reasons I took the job was that they have their own gym,” Drake said.
So far, Drake has already paid dividends. The Phoenix are 8-8 on the season. The school record for wins in a season is nine.
“We’ll easily break that,” Drake said.
That despite having a team that has no seniors.
“I start three eighth-graders and my point guard is a freshman,” Drake said. “My leading scorer and rebounder (Perla Miramontes) is an eighth-grader.”
McCurdy, on the other hand, has senior leadership. Jayme Bustos, Erica Loera, Devyn Cordova and Megan Archuleta have been through previous district wars with the Bobcats.
“Our seniors are playing with intensity,” Coach Williams said. “That helps our future, as our underclassmen are working hard.”
McCurdy’s experience and leadership helped McCurdy jump out to a big lead against ATC. The Phoenix struggled against McCurdy’s pressing defense and commited turnovers, while their shots were at times wild and well off the mark. McCurdy was able to get out and score in transition. The Bobcats led 16-4 at the end of the first quarter.
With McCurdy’s second team on the sourt in thesecond quarter, scoring slowed down for the Bobcats and ATC still had trouble with turnovers and wild shots. The Bobcats scored just six points and the Phoenix five, making the score 22-9 n favor of McCurdy at halftime.
The Bobcats took off in the third quarter. It started with seniors Archuleta, Bustos and Cordova leading the way. They all scored points in an 11-3 run by McCurdy that gave the Bobcats a 33-12 lead. Freshman Emma Lovato then took over for McCurdy. She canned two free throws, had an old-fashioned, three-point play and drained a three-pointer to give the Bobcats a 41-18 lead. After Miramontes hit a three-pointer, the score was 41-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter things started to happen for the Phoenix. Wild shots were now finding their mark and the Phoenix youth movement started to connect. Behind Miramontes, freshman point guard Channele Jaeger and eighth-grader Charli Koseoglu, the Phoenix made a run at the overly-complacent Bobcats. All of a sudden, the score was 45-37 with time still left on the clock. The Phoenix actually missed a couple of free throws and failed to score on several possessions that could have made the game even closer.
Bustos finally made the play that was needed to right the ship for McCurdy. She barreled downcourt on a breakaway layup she made going full speed, drawing a foul. Her old-fashioned, three-point play put McCurdy back in control 48-37 with 1:14 left in the game. The Phoenix managed two more baskets to make the final score 48-41 in McCurdy’s favor.
Lovato had 16 points to lead McCurdy. Bustos finished with 13 points for the Bobcats. Miramontes led the Phoenix with 14 points. Koseoglu had 11 points for ATC.
McCurdy improved to 7-12 on the season. None of the other teams in District 2-2A appear able to challenge the Bobcats or the Phoenix. The two teams will probably battle it out for the district championship. This is important because more than likely only one team from District 2-2A will advance to the Class 2A state basketball tournament.
The two teams will face each other in a district game Feb. 22 at ATC.
“We need to be better prepared for our next game,” Coach Williams said. “We can’t take them lightly.”
Drake was pleased with the way his team came back.
“With their dedication and heart, they surprise me sometimes,” Drake said. “Í get frustrated, but I see the growth and confidence. We’ll be better. We’re going to be good.”