By George Morse
The Espanola Valley High School girls basketball team rallied in the fourth quarter and had made it a one possession game with the clock running out against Sue Cleveland High School in the championship game of the Capital City Invitational Tournament Dec. 7 in Santa Fe. Espanola had the ball and took the last shot. An off-balance, running three-pointer missed and Cleveland hung on for a 36-33 victory.
‘We were down by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter,” Espanola Coach Joe Estrada said. “We picked up the full-court pressure. We had a steal and Destiny Valdez hit a 25-foot three-pointer. We had another turnover and Miranda Salazar hit a three-pointer. We had a couple more steals but couldn’t get the ball to go in.”
After a solid 62-46 win Dec. 5 over Portales High School in the opening round of the tournament, the Lady Sundevils took on host Santa Fe High School Dec. 6 in the semifinals. Former rivals when the Demonettes were members of District 2-4A, the two teams battled back-and-forth in a game where missed free throws played a key role. Santa Fe was a paltry 9-of-30 from the free-throw line and the Sundevils not a lot better at 16-of-31 from the line.
Espanola got off to a good start. Anita DeAguero beganthe scoring for the Lady Sundevils with an old-fashioned, three-point play with a layup and a free throw. Kiana Duran followed with another three-point play to give Espanola a 6-2 lead. A steal and layup by Valdez upped the lead to 10-4 for the Sundevils.
Santa Fe came back to tie the score 10-10 despite going 0-of-7 from the free-throw line. A three-pointer by Rhianna Padilla gave Espanola the lead. The Sundevils were ahead 13-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Santa Fe came back to take its only lead of the game 16-15 in the second quarer. Salazar hit a three-pointer to put Espanola back in front. A three-pointer by DeAguero gave the Sundevils a 22-18 lead. Espanola led 22-20 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Sundevils and the Demonettes each scored eight points. Espanola led 30-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
A couple of freshmen gave Espanola a lift in the fourth quarter. Kaitlyn Thomas hit a pair of free throw. Padilla drained a three-pointer and followed with two more free throws to give Espanola a 38-30 lead. Santa Fe cut the lead to 39-36, but missed five free throws. Espanola went 3-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to secure the 42-36 victory. The Sundevils advanced to the championship gme against Cleveland.
After the loss to Cleveland Espanola is 2-2 on the season. The Sundevils will play Thursday in the opening round of the Rio Rancho tournament at Rio Rancho High School against Clovis High School.