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Natalia Chavez hits half-court buzzer beater in OT for Volcano Vista’s 5A title win

Natalia Chavez, center, is mobbed by her teammates after hitting a half-court shot at the buzzer to beat Hobbs in overtime. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

It will forever be remembered as one of the greatest baskets — and one of the most indelible moments — in the century-long history of the New Mexico high school state basketball tournament.

On the 100th anniversary of the first recognized state tournament in 1921, this was an ending almost too good to be true.

“It felt like a movie,” Jaelyn Bates said. She wasn’t wrong.

Her Volcano Vista teammate, junior guard Natalia Chavez, banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from mid-court on Saturday afternoon — in overtime, no less — in the championship game of the Class 5A girls final at the Pit.

The miracle shot lifted the second-seeded Hawks (13-0) past No. 1 Hobbs 52-49 in a sensational finale to a COVID-shortened season.

Kennedy Brown, with 3.5 seconds left, inbounded from underneath her own basket to Chavez. Chavez dribbled up the center of Bob King Court, then let it fly.

Most everyone inside the Pit was probably expecting a second overtime.

Instead, much of the crowd erupted as this unlikely 3-pointer swirled through the iron.

“I just threw it up,” Chavez said, “hoping it was gonna go in.”

Her shot went off the glass and rolled briefly around the rim, before falling through. It was a breathtaking conclusion to what had been an excellent game.

And for good measure, Volcano Vista, with the program’s fourth championship, also avenged a loss in the state finals last year to Hobbs.

“It’s a good revenge type of thing,” Bates said.

The way this unfolded at the end, it was the best revenge Volcano Vista could ever hope to write for itself after the Eagles handled the Hawks 14 months earlier in a spectator-less 2020 final.

Chavez led Volcano Vista with 21 points. Those heroic final three were the most glorious and unexpected of her Hawks career. She quickly was swarmed by her teammates on the floor.

“If I’m gonna be honest, I wasn’t aware of the clock at all,” Chavez said. “I didn’t even know how much time was left. Once I got the ball in and saw them back up, I took the chance and I just went.”

A replay monitor confirmed to the game officials what everyone in the building saw on the video screens at the north and south ends of the Pit: Chavez — just barely — had launched before the final horn.

“Everything felt slow motion,” said Bates, who scored 11 points. “Everything was all quiet. Then once it rolled around in the basket … just a sigh of relief.”

Chavez and Bates, two of New Mexico’s premier guards, practice these type of shots all the time at practice, Chavez said. But no one could have foreseen this.

“I can’t believe I actually made one in the state championship. In overtime,” a giddy Chavez said. That 3 was her fifth.

The Eagles (12-1) were careful not to approach or foul Chavez.

“We backed off. We didn’t want them to throw deep,” Hobbs coach Joe Carpenter said. “When the guards came up, we just defended them to the best of our ability. The kid made a shot. Just tremendous. Amazing. What do you say to that?”

Natalia Chavez hugs the championship trophy tight to her chest as she walks off the court after beating Hobbs. Jim Thompson/Journal)

The game was close and competitive throughout. Hobbs led most of the first half. Volcano Vista pulled in front 22-20 late in the half, but Hobbs — after the first of two five-minute-plus scoring droughts — tallied the final five, including a 3 from Arilyn Hall, and led 25-22 at halftime.

Hobbs’ second scoring drought was more costly. After leading 30-25, Hobbs could manufacture very little offensively. Concurrently, Volcano Vista rattled off the next 13 points and led 38-30 following a Chavez 3, her second of that 13-0 run.

Another Chavez 3-pointer had the Hawks in front 44-40 with 1:57 left in regulation. Hobbs scored four quick points to tie the game. Neither team scored over the final 75 seconds of regulation, forcing the overtime.

In OT, a banked-in 3 by Eagles eighth-grader Brynn Hargrove tied the game at 49. Volcano Vista called timeout with 3.5 seconds remaining.

Anthony and Elise Turrubiates each scored 16 points to lead Hobbs.


VOLCANO VISTA (13-0): Kennedy Brown 1-3 0-0 3, Jaelyn Bates 3-15 4-4 11, Savannah McGuire 1-3 1-23 3, Giannah Aragon 2-6 0-0 5, Natalia Chavez 8-17 0-0 21, Taejhuan Hill 3-13 3-5 9, Angelyn Aranda 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 18-60 8-11 52.

HOBBS (12-1): Arilyn Hill 2-2 0-0 6, Wisdom Anthony 6-22 1-3 16, Jamiah Clay 0-7 0-0 0, Elise Turrubiates 6-16 4-9 16, Aniya Joseph 2-5 2-2 6, Brynn Hargrove 2-4 0-0 5, Bhret Clay 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-57 7-14 49.

Volcano Vista  12  10  16  6  8 — 52

Hobbs  16  9  9  10  5 — 49

3-point goals: VV 8-26 (Chavez 5-12, Bates 1-8, Aragon 1-4, Brown 1-1, Hill 0-1); H 6-23 (Anthony 3-10, Hall 2-2, Hargrove 1-3, J.Clay 0-6, Turrubiates 0-1, B.Clay 0-1). Rebounds: VV 41 (Hill 11); H 47 (Joseph 19). Assists: VV 12 (Bates 4); H 10 (Anthony 4). Field-goal percentage: VV 30%; H 31.6%. Total fouls: VV 14; H 13. Steals: VV 6 (Bates 4); H 12 (Anthony 5). Blocked shots: VV 3 (Bates, McGuire, Chavez); H 3 (Joseph 2). Turnovers: VV 14; H 14.

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