SANTA FE – Those pesky shots from the foul line again proved to be a bugaboo for the Socorro girls in the state basketball tournament.
It didn’t hurt the sixth-seeded Warriors in the opening round, but it was a different story Tuesday against the No. 3 Braves in their raucous arena.
“We gave that game away,” Socorro coach Juan Alvarado said. “We gave it away. We missed like 15 (actually 14) free throws. A lot of turnovers. The girls were just, they were well-prepared for it, but I don’t know. Mentally, making that free throw line, that’s where we stunk it up.”
The end result was a second-round ouster 50-45.
The Warriors (18-7) ended up going 17-31 from the foul line, but those missed foul shots were crucial.
“Our game plan was that,” Alvarado said. “Capitalize on every opportunity that we have. If we do that, we’re going to successful. I know that they cannot handle man to man. And look what happened. That was the big turnaround because if we stay running with them, we can’t. I don’t have that much depth. But we didn’t make the free throws. It was as simple as that.”
Socorro got a standout effort from Taelene Fowler, who led all scorers with 27 points. Gabby Paz added seven for the Warriors.
The game was tight throughout, with the biggest lead being 43-35 Braves late in the third quarter. But using a 10-2 run spread over the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, Socorro tied it at 45-all.
But that’s when the Warriors ran out of gas as SFIS scored the game’s final five points.
“To get to this stage right here, they came a long ways,” Alvarado said. “Look at where we’re at. We stayed with one of the top four teams in the state. We lose three seniors, but we’ve got everybody else back. We’ll be here again next year. We’ll be here.”
Socorro reached the quarterfinals with a 42-35 win over West Las Vegas last week. Gabby Paz had 16 points, with 13 coming in the first half, and Taelene Fowler picked up the scoring in the second half with eight of her 11.
Although the Warriors struggled from the line, shooting just 50-percent, they got there consistently, going 18-for-36 on foul shots, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Tenth-seeded Magdalena’s season came to an end in the tournament’s opening round with a 44-31 loss at No. 7 Maxwell.
“We did our best,” coach Sara Sue Olney said. “They were just a little better than us that day.”
The Steers (20-8) struggled early, falling behind 17-9 at halftime as their offense could not get untracked.
“We probably had one of our worst shooting nights and it was the wrong time to have that,” she said, adding nerves may have been a factor. “I’m sure that had to have had something to do with it. It was an exciting atmosphere. Loud, fast-paced game.”
Particularly so since the Bears girls were making their first ever state tournament appearance.
“We couldn’t score in the first half and they did,” Olney said. “In the fourth quarter, they had a few more runs and ended up pulling away. It was a fairly close game back and forth and we got to within six to nine points in the fourth quarter.”
Perhaps the biggest news out of the game is that Olney, who moved over as the boys varsity assistant to take over the team early in the season following the fatal auto accident that killed Marleen Greenwood and her grand niece, is expecting to return as coach next season.
She’ll return to a team that will be bringing back three starters, she said.
A fourth straight tournament appearance for No. 12 Alamo Navajo ended the same way the others ones did – with an opening-round loss, this time to fifth-seeded Gateway Christian 55-32.
“Gateway was far more athletic than we,” said coach Randy Hunt. “We plan on fixing that starting (immediately) with weights and devices that will improve our strength, coordination and speed.”
The Cougars (16-13) fell behind 22-12 at halftime, then really struggled in the third quarter, getting outscored 23-8.
Hailey Apachito just missed a triple-double, scoring 17 points with 11 blocked shots and nine rebounds. After a slow start, Sapphira Sandoval added 11 points and six boards.
“Hailey and Sapphira tried to carry our team but we needed more from others,” Hunt said, adding Apachito’s performance was particularly noteworthy. “One of the better performances in any state tournament game so far.”
Now, the team is looking to take that next step and advance beyond the first weekend, even though the team has to overcome a lack of a weight room and an off-campus Wellness Center that is inconvenient for regular use.
“We talked after the loss and it is hard to address any team when their season is over,” Hunt said. “We asked them to commit to next season starting Monday. Yes, next season is a long way off, but not for us. We are going to start getting stronger, faster, and more coordinated for next year and do it for our health as well.”