Lady Panthers Survive, Win In OT

by Editor / Mar 19, 2019 / 0 comments
The Pecos High School girls basketball team won their first state championship in school history, defeating Mescalero Apache High School 53-46 in the Class 2A state championship game March 15 at The Pit in Albuquerque. The game went into overtime after being tied 38-38 at the end of regulation. 

Pecos Survives, Wins In Overtime

By George Morse

All the Lady Panthers could do was wait. The Pecos High School girls basketball team could only watch while Mescalero High School’s Pearl Pike would shoot a free throw that if she made it would give the Lady Chiefs a 39-38 victory in the Class 2A state championship game March 15 at The Pit in Albuquerque. The Chiefs had gone the length of the court after Pecos’ Faith Flores free throw had made the score 38-36 in favor of the Lady Panthers with 6.1 seconds left in regulation. The Chiefs had moved the ball swiftly downcourt and found Pike open under the basket, where she sank a layup and drew a foul just before the buzzer. The score was tied and a free throw by Pike would win the game.

Pike did not get to shoot her free throw right away. Officials used video replay to to determine just how must time remained on the clock. After a long delay, .1 second was put on the game clock.

Coaches often call time out when an opponent is about to shoot a key free throw in order to “ice” the shooter. The official’s delay may have had the same effect on Pike.

As the players on Pecos’ bench tensely watched while tightly holding hands. Pike went to the line. Her shot looked to be on target, but was short, bouncing off the front of the rim.

“If they hadn’t had the delay , my girl  would have hit the free throw,” Mescalero Coach Elmer Chavez said. “They froze her for about 10 minutes.”

Pecos had new life. The game went into overtime.

“We were just praying that it wouldn’t go in,” said the Panthers’ Trinity Herrera.

Herrera made the most of the second chance, sinking a breakaway layup and drawing a foul. She sank the ensuing free throw for an old-fashioned, three-point play. Brittney Martinez followed with a basket in the paint. Another layup by Herrera and another basket by Martinez finished off a 9-2 run by Pecos that gave them a 47-40 lead in the four minute overtime.

With the score 47-42 and time running out on the Chiefs, all Pecos needed to do was hit free throws down the stretch. As already shown, easier said than done. Herrera missed both of her free throws with less than two minutes left to play. Fortunately, Flores managed to muscle into the paint, grab the rebound and score on a putback. After Ramona Fosssum scored for the Chiefs, Cassie Muller sank a free throw for the Panthers at 1:14 to give Pecos a 50-44 lead.

With 41.5 seconds left to play, Lexi Gonzales was at the line for Pecos. She missed both of her shots. Once gain Flores saved theday, grabbing another rebound and scoring on another putback to give the Panthers a 52-44 lead. After a basket by Mescalero’s Samantha  Kahze, Gonzales finally canned a free throw with 21.2 seconds left for the game’s final point. The Pecos players rushed the court as the final buzzer sounded and there were plenty of hugs, tears and cheers to  go around at center court.

It was the first state basketball championship for the Lady Panthers in school history. The Pecos’ boys basketballteam had won two consecutive state basketball championships and would make it a three-peat the following day (March 16) by defeating Newcomb High School in the Class 2A boys championship game. This time it was the girls time to bask in the spotlight.

“I kept telling the girls that it was our year to shine,” Flores said.

Flores had come up big in the overtime period with her two rebound-and-putback baskets on missed free throws. She finished the game with 13 rebounds.

“Coach said I had to rebound,” she said. “I was ready for anything.”

The game had been a back-and-forth battle from the beginning. Pecos had hit three three-pointers by Muller, Martinez and Herrera in the first half. The Chiefs had an answer each time and a three-pointer by Fossum tied the score 18-18 at halftime.

Mescalero took their biggest lead of the game in the third quarter 25-20 after a 7-0 run. Pecos came back and trailed by a point 28-27 going into the fourth quarter.

Martinez had 10 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. The game was tied 34-34 with 1:50 left in regulation. There were three lead changes in the final 43 seconds before Pike had tied the score just before the buzzer.

Herrera had 14 points for the Panthers. Fossum led the Chiefs with 19 points, while Samantha Kahze scored 13 points and Fallon Velasquez 10 points for Mescalero.

Not only was it the first championship for the Lady Panthers, it was also the first state championship in New Mexico for Pecos Coach Ron Drake. His coaching career began in his native New Jersey and for 25 years he has been in the Land of Enchantment with stops at Santa Fe High School, St. Michael’s High School, Espanola Valley High School and Pojoaque Valley High School before landing at Pecos. He knew during a summer of playing in tough tournaments that this team was capable of winning it all.

”I knew we had something special,” he said.

It wasn’t easy. Most of the Lady Panthers are multi-sport athletes. Four members of the basketball team were members of the Pecos girls cross country team that won a state championship. Others played for the Panthers volleyball team.

“I only had four regulars showing up during open gym,” Coach Drake said.

This year the Panthers competed in District 7-2A, which included top-seeded Texico High School, which defeated Pecos twice during the regular season. Drake jokingly said that he thought about retiring after seeing the new district competition. Mescalero had upset Texico in the semifinals. The victory in the state championship game was win-number 631 for Drake in his career.

“This means so much for Pecos and the community and the fans,” Drake said. “For me, I enjoy it too, but I enjoy these girls more. It was a great run this year and they worked so hard.”

Pecos' Trinity Herrera drives in for a layup in overtime against Mescalero Apache High School. Herrera scored 14 points for the Lady Panthers.

 

Pecos'Brittney Martinez shoots a short jumper from the lane against Mescalero. Martinez led all scorers with 22 points.

Four Mescalero Apache defenders turn their attention to Faith Flores after she takes a pass from a teammate. Flores had two big baskets in overtime on putbacks after rebounding missed free throws.

 

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