Two previous meetings with defending Class 5A girls basketball state champion Volcano Vista this season did not go so well for La Cueva.
But the Bears are going to give it another shot Saturday night (6 p.m. at West Mesa) after advancing to the finals of the Albuquerque Metro Championships with a convincing semifinal win over Sandia at Volcano Vista.
The Hawks defended their home court with a dominant victory over Cleveland.
No. 2 LA CUEVA 54, No. 3 SANDIA 25: The Matadors (9-2) scored the game’s first points, a 3-pointer from freshman Sydney Benally, who finished with 14 points. From then on, it was all about the Bears (8-3), who quickly reeled off a 16-0 run, fueled by a string of offensive rebounds and fast-break points.
“It’s the first opportunity we’ve had to play straight-up man against somebody, and that’s kind of what we do best,” said La Cueva coach Marisa Cogan. “We have five girls on the floor and all of our bench, they all know that’s what we do and they do it well. As soon as we got a chance to get some trapping going and pushing the ball up the floor on steals, that’s what got us going.”
Three Bears reached double figures in scoring, led by 14 from Teona Savic. Eva Love added 12 and Nina Romero had 10, including two 3-pointers.
“Their coach said in the newspaper that whoever wants it more is going to win,” Savic said. “And I think we brought the intensity and that energy. We wanted to win this game, and so we came together and did that.”
By midway through the second quarter, the Bears had built the lead to 29-7, and only a late 7-0 Sandia run to end the half kept the game reasonably close at 29-14. But La Cueva opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run to push the advantage back over 20, where it stayed the rest of the game, setting up this third meeting with the Hawks.
“Each game, we know exactly what we need to work on,” Savic said. “Before, (Volcano Vista’s) press was a problem, so we worked on it and it wasn’t a problem last game. We know exactly what we needed to work on and we’re coming ready (on Saturday). It’s going to be a great game.”
No. 1 VOLCANO VISTA 66, No. 4 CLEVELAND 36: The Hawks (10-0) won for the 23rd straight time in a game that was never in doubt. A 13-2 run to end the first quarter put Volcano Vista ahead 17-7.
“We’re a pressure team,” Hawks coach Lisa Villareal said. “We put a lot of pressure on teams and our press may not kick in in the first quarter or the second quarter, but we know by the second half we’re a better-conditioned team. and that’s where we’re strong and that’s where our transition points come from.”
Volcano’s press did not wait that long to begin paying dividends as it forced 11 turnovers in the opening quarter and 28 for the game as the Storm (10-5) consistently struggled to get into its offense.
And when running set plays offensively, the Hawks were flawless as five players had at least eight points, led by Taejhuan Hill with 13 and Natalia Chavez with 12.