Lady Trojans Take Third At Armendariz Tournament


Mesa Vista’s Darian Halder drives to the basket. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Lady Trojans Take Third At Armendariz Tournament

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Mesa Vista High School Lady Trojans took several steps up in competition and showed that they could hold their own against bigger high schools at the Al Armendariz basketball tournament hosted by Capital High School in Santa Fe. The Class 2A Lady Trojans defeated Class 6A Deming High School and Class 5A Aztec High School, sandwiching those two wins around a loss to host Capital in the semifinals of the tournament. Mesa Vista took home the third-place trophy.

Mesa Vista was matched up against Deming’s Lady Wildcats Dec. 1 in the opening round of the tournament. The Lady Trojans had a hot hand from the perimeter in the first quarter. Santana Marquez hit two three-pointers, while Abrianna Griego and Azalea (Azzy) Griego each nailed a long trey. Mesa Vista took a 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Deming came back and sliced the lead down to a single point 25-24 by halftime.

Mesa Vista’s 
Azzy  Griego shots against Aztec. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The third quarter saw both teams struggle to score, with Deming putting just eight points in the scorebook and Mesa Vista just one better at nine points. The Lady Trojans led 34-32 heading into the fourth quarter.

Shaky shooting from the free-throw line plagued both teams in the fourth quarter. The lady Trojans were just 3-of-8 from the charity stripe and the Lady Wildcats just 1-of-4. Mesa Vista held on for a 50-48 upset victory.

It was a different team both on the floor and shooting from the field when Mesa Vista met Capital Dec. 2 in the semifinals. Marquez missed the bus and post Darien Halder sat out the game with a shoulder injury. In the first quarter against the Lady Jaguars, the same Lady Trojans who had hit three-pointers against Deming couldn’t put the ball in the ocean from the beach against Capital. Only two free throws by Azzy Griego kept the Lady Trojans from being shut out as Capital took an 11-2 lead.

“We lost two starters,” Mesa Vista Coach Robert Howard said. “We were beat before we even got into our vehicles. Emotionally, it took too much out of us.”

The Lady Trojans never did find themselves against Capital. The Lady Jaguars led 22-7 at halftime and 39-12 at the end of the third quarter. Capital cruised to an easy 46-19 victory to advance to the championship game.

The same team that took the floor against Deming, minus Marquez, took the floor against Aztec Dec. 3 in the third-place game. Mesa Vista got off to a sizzling start while the Lady Tigers struggled to score. Azzy Griego nailed a pair of three-pointers and Mesa Vista led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Trojans added two more three-pointers and 15 points in the second quarter to lead 29-13 at halftime.

“We came out loose and did our jobs,” Coach Howard said. “We were focused on what we want to do. When those first few shots went in, it gave us confidence.”

Things started to get more interesting in the third quarter, as the Lady Trojans scored just two points and Aztec shaved eight points off the Lady Trojans’ lead. The score was 31-23 heading into the fourth quarter.

A three-pointer and a basket by Aztec’s Myra McCaskill made it a three-point game. The first of two big three-pointers by point guard Maryssa Martin pushed the lead back up to six points, but Aztec got back to within two points 34-32 after a three-point play by Reigan Weaver.

The Lady Trojans kept dodging bullets, turning the ball over on three straight possessions. Aztec couldn’t take advantage of the gifts, turning it over twice themselves and missing a three-pointer. Martin nailed her second three-pointer and the Trojans built their lead back up to 39-32 with less than two minutes left in the game.

Two free throws by McCaskill and a basket by Makayla McCaskill cut the lead down to three points.

With less than a minute to go in the game, Abrianna Griego sank the first of two free throws to make the score 40-36 in favor of Mesa Vista. She missed her second free throw, but the Lady Trojans came up with the rebound. Azzy Griego was fouled and went to the free-throw line. She had made just one of her five previous free throws in the second half, but she coolly drained two crucial charity tosses to give the Lady Trojans a 42-36 lead with 47 seconds left to play.

Myra McCaskill came down and nailed a three-pointer to cut the Lady Trojans’ lead in half. On the ensuing inbounds play, McCaskill fouled Martin. McCaskill fouled out of the game, taking away Aztec’s main scoring threat. Martin nailed both of her free throws with 32 seconds left. A traveling call on Aztec gave the ball back to the Lady Trojans in the final seconds and Mesa Vista ran out the clock for the victory.

Azzy Griego and Martin were named to the all-tournament team.

The Lady Trojans compete in one of the toughest Class 2A districts (5-2A) in the state. Defending district champion Mora High School returns most of the team that went undefeated in district play last season and Escalante returns all its starters from last season. Escalante also returns post Tori Salazar, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Coach Howard believes that the Lady Trojans can make a run at the district title despite the strong competition.

“I believe 100-percent we’ve got great shot,” he said. “We’ve got the talent.”