Magdalena Lady Steers cheer from the bench.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

MAGDALENA—The Steers had No. 2 Cliff on the ropes but couldn’t deliver a knockout blow. Magdalena fell 49-45 in overtime, evening their season record to 13-13 and 3-7 in District 2-1A girls basketball.

Scoring lulls and turnovers have been a consistent thorn in the side of the Steers, but the Feb. 18 loss to Cliff was painful after Magdalena tied the game up at 39-39 to take it into overtime.

While the loss stung, how well her team played defensively wasn’t lost on Magdalena’s coach Sara Sue Olney.

“I think that’s the most consistent game we played across the board. If it’s time for us to peak, it’s the best time for us to peak. They’re the number two team in the state, and we just proved that we can play with them, so we can build on that as we go into the district tournament.”

Neither team took a definite advantage as the Steers led 12-11 after the first quarter, and Cliff had a 23-22 lead at the half.

It was a rough game with plenty of contact, and while Magdalena is talented, it is also young, and experience is one of the things Olney can’t coach or hand over to her Steers.

Not keeping their feet on the backside drives to the bucket is one thing the Steers must learn.

“We need to be a little bit more solid. Part of that, as I said earlier, is not playing enough basketball and knowing that we can go up on two feet and take the hit and finish. And that’ll come with these young girls,” Olney said.

More experience will also bring the knowledge of when to overcome the fear of a missed shot and having a sense of urgency in overtime. The Steers slowed down when they needed to speed up and then rushed when they should have set up a shot.

Still, there was no overlooking the total effort the Steers had on display, and Olney believes things could swing in Magdalena’s favor.

“Today, we came out, and we said no regrets—we need to walk off the floor knowing that we played our best and as hard as we possibly can,” Olney said. “I think for the district tournament, that’s all we can do. We’re the underdogs. Nobody expects us to win, so there’s no pressure on us. There’s pressure on everybody else ahead of us, so we just need to stay relaxed and play.”

Getting points from different players isn’t a problem for Magdalena as Kambree Montoya led the Steers with 13 points, and Jorianne Mirabal and Jema Ganadonegro pumped in 11 points each. Gerleanzy Ganadonegro had eight points despite drawing heavy-defensive coverage, and Elia Cleveland had two. All four of the Steers’ top scorers hit three-pointers.