The Centennial High School girls basketball team isn’t going to look as the Hawks necessarily envisioned this season, but as they continue to adjust on the fly, they snatched a win from Albuquerque High on Saturday afternoon.
Junior guard Aspen Salazar scored 14 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, as visiting Centennial, down nine in the fourth quarter, rallied to beat AHS 52-49 in an entertaining nondistrict matchup at Bulldog City.
“She kind of struggled early in the game, but we told her to keep shooting the ball, and it would come, like any other shooter,” said Centennial coach Louie Laborin of Salazar.
Salazar scored eight points in the fourth quarter as she sparked a comeback to force overtime, then added six more in the four-minute OT, including a driving layup with 13 seconds to go for the final margin.
For the Bulldogs (1-2), junior guard Ariana Sanchez’s 3-point attempt at the overtime buzzer rattled in and out.
“I just tried telling my team, keep hustling. We had to build chemistry for this game,” said Salazar. “We were not really as a team in the beginning, so I just told them to keep pushing and we finally got a ‘W’ ”
One of Centennial’s standouts, senior guard Larissa Laborin, suffered a serious knee injury earlier this year and her return to the lineup is questionable at best. She was the Hawks’ second-leading scorer in the spring season behind Salazar.
And the 5-foot-9 Salazar demonstrated her inherent value on Saturday, particularly in the moments when Centennial (3-1) needed her production most.
“She made some big buckets for us, (and) she’s a hell of a player,” Laborin said.
AHS had opened up a 40-31 lead early in the fourth quarter as Bulldogs post Leilani Love put back her own miss in the first 35 seconds.
Salazar got the comeback going, although it was teammate Casandra Holguin who put the Hawks in front 45-42 with a short jumper and then a layup with 1:47 remaining in regulation.
Sanchez’s three-point play squared things at 45 a few seconds later and neither team scored in the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“We just told our girls to focus on the little things we can control, like our effort,” coach Laborin said. “We needed to get back into the game by shooting free throws and playing better defense.”
Love led AHS with 19 points.
SANDIA PREP INVITATIONAL: Tournament most valuable player Kellan Gehres scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half with an impressive display of 3-point shooting, and Albuquerque Academy (3-1) defeated Belen 51-37 in the tournament finale Saturday night.
Gehres was 4 of 5 from behind the arc as the Chargers opened up a 33-13 lead on the Eagles (4-1) at halftime.
ARTESIA: Hobbs won the City of Champions Classic in Artesia on Saturday, defeating Los Lunas 58-31 in the final.