ALBUQUERQUE — It would be wise to discount scoreboard evidence in the case against the Santa Fe Demonettes as a program that belongs among the elite — evidence that perhaps they were too young, too inexperienced, or even too mired in years of mediocrity to be a true contender in the Class 4A field.
It wasn’t so much that in the second overtime the No. 3-seeded Demonettes were outscored 15-5 by No. 2 Roswell (23-7), resulting in a 57-47 loss. It was more that they pushed a veteran Coyote squad, which played for the title just one year ago, to the brink of elimination.
Santa Fe (25-4) opened Thursday’s contest at the Pit on an 8-0 run, led by as many 11 points, and were 17.2 seconds away from advancing to the school’s first girls state title game since 1997. But, as Demonettes coach Elmer Chavez put it: “That’s the way it goes — that’s basketball.”
And the way it went, with Santa Fe leading 34-31, began with Santa Fe sophomore Kayla Herrera leaving the game with 1:04 left in regulation with a right ankle sprain. Then Roswell capitalized, scoring the next four points to take its first lead, before the squads headed into overtime.
“We had them beat — we had that game won,” Chavez said. “But when Kayla went down, we suffered a little with our ball handling. … It’s upsetting — you never expect things like that to happen. And these girls played their hearts out.”
In the extra period, the Demonettes suffered their next major blow, with sophomore post Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage picking up her fifth foul with 1:04 remaining.
“I thought it was only my third foul,” said Lozada-Cabbage, who finished with 14 points. “I learned that next time I have to keep track better.”
With Lozada-Cabbage joining Herrera on the sideline, the Coyotes built their largest lead of the game, 47-42, with roughly 40 seconds left in the extra period. That was when Herrera said she had seen enough.
“One of the assistants was saying, ‘Oh, let’s save her for tomorrow,'” said Herrera, who finished with 15 points. “But I said there would be no tomorrow if we don’t win now. So once they wrapped me up, I was like, ‘Get me in.'”
The 5-foot-8 guard provided an immediate spark, firing a 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds left to rally the team back to 42-40. Then a Santa Fe steal, coupled with a Selena Valencia layup would send the teams to a second overtime, which belonged almost entirely to the Coyotes.
Roswell senior Tiffanie Bolanos credited the experience gained from last year’s one-point loss to Kirtland Central in the title game for helping her team advance to tonight’s finale.
“You learn and grow from your experiences (at state),” she said. “What we learned from last year is that you just keep playing. If you miss a shot, you move on and get the next one.”
Santa Fe’s Jackie Martinez finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.
LOVINGTON 38, SANTA FE INDIAN SCHOOL 33: It was supposed to be the year of the Lady Braves — then, in the span of less than a minute, it wasn’t.
The Wildcats, protecting a three-point lead, closed their Class 3A semifinal win from the foul line. Justice Perry, who missed the front end of a plus-one free-throw attempt, would find redemption, connecting on both of her foul shots in the final seconds to send the defending champs back to the title game.
And for teammate Jocelyn Jeffrey, the win wasn’t just an opportunity to play for another title. It was chance to prove that last year’s win over SFIS was no fluke.
“This one was more satisfying because of all the words said in the past,” she said. “It felt good to show them that we weren’t lucky. We’ve known all season that they were talking about us.
“While they were talking, we were working.”
SFIS coach Cindy Roybal countered: “I don’t think anybody works harder than my girls. … I think what others see as arrogant, we see as swagger; we see as determination. We know that everyone is after us. After all, who made the past three state championship games?
“… Today, our game was just a little short. Having seven seniors, a lot of times, we rise to the occasion. But other times, having seven seniors is a hindrance because they want it so bad.”
It was an inauspicious start for the Lady Braves, who hit just 3 of 12 from the field in the opening period to spot Lovington the first four points of the ballgame. Lovington, however, couldn’t capitalize on their fast start and allowed SFIS back into the contest, with the squads heading into the second period even at 8 apiece.
Lovington then led by as many as six points in the second period after a 5 minute, 13 second scoring drought for SFIS. But the Lady Braves countered with the final three points of the half to trail 19-16. And, after five lead changes in the third quarter and three at the start of the fourth, Lovington took the lead for good with a 5-0 run in the final 2:23. Lovington’s Cori Haley was the game’s high scorer with 13 points. Bridget Lee paced SFIS with nine.