Coach Brad Bailey signals in his defense.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

The Socorro Lady Warriors will head into District 3 3A play on Jan. 31 with a new look, but it’s different from what anyone was expecting after the loss of head coach Brad Bailey due to his need to handle some personal matters.

“He didn’t resign, and he didn’t get fired. Coach Bailey just had some personal matter to take of,” Socorro athletic director Jarrod Storey said. “We respected those personal matters, and we’ll allow him to take care of those for the rest of the season.”

In his first season with the Lady Warriors, Bailey inherited a program that had less than a dozen players show up for high school basketball, which meant limited development for younger players due to the inability to field a junior varsity team full-time.

“I met many wonderful people in the community and in the schools, which I sincerely would like to thank for their support and kindness,” Bailey said.

It’s been a rough season for Socorro (3-16). The Lady Warriors have little time left before opening district play with a pair of home games against Hatch Valley (Jan. 31) and Cobre (Feb. 2). Playing at home is always a good thing when opening league play. Right off the bat, it will be a measuring stick for the Lady Warriors.

Lady Warrior Kaedyn Gonzalez battles for possession of the ball against Las Vegas defenders.

Heading into district play, Socorro ranks third in total wins, but Cobre (5-13) and Hot Springs (4-14) aren’t world-beaters, and the Lady Warriors have a real chance at taking the league crown. Socorro opens against 1-13 Hatch, which lost to Hot Springs in tournament play, and the first district game should give everyone a good idea of how teams may stack up.

More than anything, Socorro needs solid ground to stand on. That’s what Storey said he wants to provide, and it’s why he stepped into a coaching role against Sandia Prep.

“Right now, we just needed to have a little bit of stability, and I wanted to wait for a little while on making a choice about a new head – it’s a big decision,” Storey said. “I figured I’d step in for stability. I have a passion for basketball coaching. I just wanted to see these girls be successful for what little time they have left. So, even if it’s just bridging the gap to get somebody in there permanently for the rest of the season.

Storey stepped into the role in a narrow 34-32 loss against Sandia Prep and afterward refined his decision to a coaching-by-committee with assistant coaches Brittany McDaniel and Brisa Garcia.

Considering that the Lady Warriors were slated to host No. 1 Las Vegas (17-1), anybody getting the job would be handed a tough chore. The Lady Cardinals handed out a 58-23 setback, but the Lady Warriors still had their flashes on defense, and they frustrated Las Vegas early in the game.

“There will be no appointment of an interim head coach, but rather a coach-by-committee between coach McDaniel, coach Garcia and myself. Coach McDaniel will have most of the reins, but I don’t want to put all the weight on her,” Storey said.

Against Sandia Prep, Ariana Crespin was on target in the first quarter as she delivered a trio of three-pointers and paced the Lady Warriors to a 14-11 lead, with Faith Lucero and Alex Crespin chipping in the other buckets.

Up 20-18 at halftime, Socorro increased that lead with a 10-4 third-quarter surge, but Sandia crept back into contention. When the Lady Warriors were forced to foul, the Lady Cardinal’s Mika Juan responded with 4-of-5 shooting at the line.

Ariana Crespin was Socorro’s top scorer with 12 points (all 3s), Alex Crespin was next on the scoring list with seven, Faith Lucero netted six, while Jaylin Gonzales, Jazmine Alvarado and Kaedyn Gonzales had two points each.

“Sandia is one of the better teams in 3A. They’re very well coached and had good size that we couldn’t match up with,” Storey said. “But when these girls came out with a little bit of fire in their tail, and you know, I just tried to make sure that they were motivated to go, and they put up some big shots in the first half and made some big three-pointers early.”

The Charisma Blues dance team’s mini-camp attendees performed at halftime of the Socorro’s girls’ basketball game on Jan. 21.