Magdalena girls basketball coach Sara Sue Olney offered no excuses after her No. 5 Steers fell 42-41 to No. 4 Fort Sumner/House in the Nusenda girls state basketball tournament quarterfinals at Bernalillo High School on Wednesday.

“We worked our butts off, played a darn good game and we lost by one,” Olney said.
Magdalena basketball fans had a far more colorful tale to tell after a bit of controversy marked the end of the contest. This was one of the games that will hurt for a little while.

With the score knotted at 41-41, Magdalena had possession with 1:21 remaining and burned off more than a minute passing the ball around, looking for an opportunity to put the game away. The Vixens rebounded a missed three-point attempt, and a foul with one-half second remaining completely changed the dynamics of one of the tournament’s best games.

“I think everybody knows the cardinal rule in basketball: You swallow your whistle at that point and let the girls decide the game. He didn’t. They made a free throw, and we lost,” Olney said.

Adding salt to the wound, after Allyssa Casaus made her first free throw, Fort Sumner called a timeout it didn’t have, which, by rule, is a technical foul. Olney brought this point up to the officials, who checked the stats and found out she was correct; however, her argument was to no avail, as no foul was called.

Considering the officials also lost track of possession when it came time for a jump ball and called fouls while out of position, there could have been several arguments.
“The six timeouts, I guess they confirmed with their stats, which is fine, that doesn’t win or lose this game. We’re not going to sit there and cry and complain and blame it on anybody. One more shot falls for us, and we win by one,” Olney said.
Normally, the Steers get off to a fast start, but they didn’t hit their first bucket until midway through the first quarter, which ended up being tied at 9-9, as Elia Cleveland found a way to score seven of her 13 points in the period.

Jema Ganadonegro, Aliza Apache, and Jorianne Mirabal combined for 10 second-quarter points. Magdalena led 19-16 at halftime and pushed out a little further 31-25 going into the final quarter thanks to Mirabal sinking shots at the free throw. She was the game’s top scorer with 18 points.

The Vixens mounted their game-winning rally via the three-point arc and hit a trio of long-distance dialups that Magdalena failed to get in front of in time.

“We played to the best of our ability. Now, as a coach. I’ll go back and watch the film, and I’ll probably be mad at myself for about 15 different things,” Olney said. “But I think that’s why people coach, and you can always do better. I don’t think, as of right now, that I would change anything. Talk to me a week from now, and I’d probably say we should have done this. We should have done that. But in the moment and right now, I can’t have asked for anything more for my girls,” Olney said.

With just two seniors on this year’s squad, the Steers will reload rather than rebuild, and she thumbs away, a tear trickling down her right cheek before reflecting on what Aliza Apache and Kambree Montoya have meant to her program.

“I’m super proud of those two girls because if you don’t know Aliza, she’s not a basketball player, but she sure as hell became one this year. She played her role so well. I’m super proud of her for all she has brought to the team,” Olney said. “And then Kambree, she’s another senior, you know, Kambree’s had a rough road with ups and downs. I was so proud that she finally put all her downs aside and just bought in and played like the person, the athlete, and the teammate I know she is. I wanted so badly to win for them because they’ve worked their tails off and set the foundation for these young girls, so I can’t say enough about those two.”

Olney also had words of encouragement for next year’s squad.

“I told them to let it hurt a little bit. Take that feeling and put it inside, and do not let it go for 365 days. Because we will be right back here next year,” Olney said. “When that time comes, that’s when we let that pain out, and I feel sorry for whoever’s going to have to see it.”

Scoring – Aliza Apache 8, Jema Ganadonegro 1, Lanisha Vicente 0, Elia Cleveland 13, Kambree Montoya, Winona Apachito, Jorianne Mirabal 18, Falene Montoya, Oliviah Clark, Jewel Mirabal.

Russell Huffman, El Defensor Chieftain Asst. Editor