By George Morse
After coming back and beating host Capital High School 53-49 in the semifinals of the Al Armendariz basketball tournament Dec. 13 in Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Indian School Lady Braves couldn’t come up with another comeback and lost to Tohatchi High School 50-38 in the championship game Dec. 14 at Capital.
Tohatchi took control of the game in the first quarter and never looked back. Coming out in a full court press, the Lady Cougars forced turnovers and quickly took an 8-0 lead. After Indian School finally scored on a pair of free throws at the 4:57 mark, Tohatchi scored eight more unanswered points for a 16-2 lead. The Cougars led 16-4 at the end of the first quarter.
Indian School came back in the second quarter. A 9-4 run by the Braves sliced Tohatchi’s lead down to seven points.
The Cougars regrouped. Brooke Badonie nailed a three-pointer that initiated a 9-0 run by Tohatchi that ended with a three-pointer by Cameron Tsosie. The Cougars led 29-13 at halftime.
“You’ve got to be ready at the start of the game,” Indian School Coach Patricia Chavez said. “We didn’t handle the press. We started trying too hard and not playing Lady Braves’ basketball. We ended up shooting ourselves out of the game.”
Shots weren’t falling and some were ill-advised for the Braves in the third quarter. Indian School scored just four points. Tohatchi’s Krystal Benally was continually shaking herself loose near the basket and her teammates were finding her. She had a run of eight points and Tohatchi led 41-17 heading into the fourth quarter.
Indian School finally started to put things together in the fourth quarter and outscored the Cougars 13-3 to start the fourth quarter. Tohatchi put starters Gabrielle Thomas and Sierra Peterson back into the game and they took care of the ball down the stretch. The Braves outscored Tohatchi 21-9 in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late. The Cougars claimed the tournament’s first-place trophy with a 50-38 victory.
“Tohatchi is a well-disciplined team,” Coach Chavez said. “They did all the little things right.”
The Lady Braves had come back the night before in the semifinals against the host Lady Jaguars. For three quarters it looked like Capital would advance to the championship game. The Jaguars jumped out to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter that was fueled by a flurry of fouls on the Lady Braves that sent Capital to the free-throw line. The Jaguars sank 11-of-13 free throws in the first quarter.
Indian School battled back in the second quarter. The Braves outscored the Jaguars 17-13, but poor free-throw shooting plagued Indian School. The Lady Braves sank just 5-of-17 free throws in the first half. Capital led 30-23 at halftime. Indian School cut Capital’s lead to three points 30-27 after a pair of free throws by Cameron Connors. Behind Rebecca Sorenson and Ethena Silva, the Jaguars came back with a 10-2 run that Silva finished off with a three-pointer.
Connors connected on a three-pointer that made the score 42-32 at the end of the third quarter. Connors scored all nine of Indian School’s points in the third quarter.
After Brenda Pinion scored for Capital to make it 42-32 in favor of the Jaguars, Indian School made a run. Connors started it with a basket. Hunter Garcia added a pair of free throws. Iris Emery added another basket and Franki Chavez contributed a free throw. Garcia made two more free throws and Connors finished the 11-0 run off with a put-back basket that gave the Braves a 43-42 lead with 4:37 left in the game.
Capital finally stopped the bleeding with a basket by Sorenson. Silva added a free throw to give Capital a 45-43 lead. Connors fouled out. Chavez sank two free throws to tie the score at 45-45, but fouled out moments later. Indian School would have to play the final 2:41 left in the game without two of its starters.
A free throw by Sorenson gave Capital a one-point lead. Taylor Johnston tied the score 46-46 with a free throw. An opportunity arose for the Lady Braves when Sorenson missed two free throws. With 1:06 left in the game, Johnston scored on a put-back basket to give the Lady Braves a 48-46 lead.
Silva answered with a three-pointer that made the score 49-48 in favor of the Jaguars. Indian School’s Emery drove to the basket and scooped in a layup while drawing a foul. She sank the ensuing free throw to complete the old-fashioned, three-point play to give the Lady Braves a 51-49 lead with 35.6 seconds left in the game.
With 23.8 seconds to play, Capital turned the ball over. Garcia was fouled with 20 seconds left in the game. She sank both free throws. With the Lady Braves leading 53-49, Capital couldn’t score again and Indian School held on for the victory. The Lady Braves advanced to the championship game.
Connors led the Lady Braves with 17 points. Emery finished with 12 points. Garcia added 10 points, including 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Indian School is 5-2 on the season. The Braves host Wingate High School Thursday in Santa Fe.