JACONA – Pojoaque Valley coach Ron Drake said in jest before Wednesday’s District 2-3A semifinals that the only way to cool off the white-hot West Las Vegas Lady Dons is with a hose.
Well, it probably couldn’t have hurt, considering the tournament’s No. 2-seeded Elkettes (15-14) are now just the next in line to fall to the fifth-seeded Lady Dons (17-11), who won just two games during the district season.
WLV – which started off the week by dropping 79 points on No. 4-seeded Raton followed by a 99-point performance on Tuesday against No. 3 Robertson – made it three straight after dispatching Pojoaque Valley 65-58 to advance to Friday’s district title game against regular-season champs, Taos.
“Even though they were hot, I felt good coming into this game,” Drake said. “But we got down too much. We made a nice come back, but some turnovers at the end just hurt us.”
Four players scored in double figures for the Lady Dons – who were up by as many as 16 points – led by Deanna Bustos with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting. The 5-foot-6 freshman scored eight points in the final period to help protect a WLV lead that was cut to 63-57 with 45 seconds left in regulation.
“At that point, I think we were getting frustrated,” Bustos said. “But after coach called a timeout, we got ourselves back together and did what we had to do.”
For Bustos, that meant hitting four of five free throws inside the final 36.1 seconds to seal the win.
“I’m confident on the free-throw line – that one just didn’t go in for me so it was disappointing,” she said. “But we got it done.”
WLV broke a 6-6 tie just 2 minutes, 4 seconds into the contest, to ultimately take the lead for good.
The Lady Dons, who led 38-25 at the break, hit all five of their three-point tries in the first half, including three in the opening period to lead 17-14. WLV then opened the second quarter on a 13-2 run – including back-to-back 3-pointers from Jaylen Gutierrez, who scored all 10 of her points before the break – to open a 14-point lead, at 30-16. Meanwhile, the Elkettes struggled from the floor, hitting just 9 of 34 from the field, including 2-of-15 from beyond the arch, to trail by double figures for the remainder of the half. Cheyenne Cordova, who finished with a game-high 20 points, recorded just six points at the break on 2-for-12 shooting at the half. She finished the contest at 36 percent (8 for 22).
The Elkettes closed to within 40-32 after the intermission after opening the third period on an 8-2 run, and trailed 50-43 by the final period. And although Pojoaque Valley managed to get to within 61-57 inside the final minute, that would be as close as it could get.
When Drake was asked for the biggest difference between WLV now and when he faced them during the regular season, he replied: “We beat them by double digits twice, but they’re different – they’re playing with confidence now.”
WLV coach Jose Medina agreed.
“We went through a slump,” he said. “But now the girls are playing together and they’re starting to believe. We’re playing well and now we just have to keep it going.
“We can’t be satisfied. We have to stay hungry, and hopefully we can keep this thing going into the post season.”
WLV’s other high scorers were Michelle Tapia (13 points); Maya Roybal (11); and Jaylen Gutierrez (10).