It took a year longer than it had hoped, but the Santa Fe girls basketball team is in a state championship game.
The second-seeded Demonettes, who lost to Roswell in last years semifinals, edged Valencia in Thursday’s Class 4A semifinals to grab a berth in today’s 7:30 p.m. title game against top-seeded Los Lunas in the Pit.
No. 2 SANTA FE 38, No. 6 VALENCIA 37: The Demonettes (29-2) lost all of a 12-point, third-quarter lead but regrouped and held off the Jaguars (23-8) to advance to the title game.
Valencia’s Karina Dow hit back-to-back 3s – the second with 2:41 remaining – to put the Jaguars ahead 37-36, but Santa Fe’s Kayla Herrera came right back with a jumper with 2:27 remaining to give her team the lead again.
After the Jaguars missed two shots on their next possession, the Demonettes worked on the clock in the final two minutes.
Santa Fe drained it down to 30 seconds, while the Jaguars chased the ball all over the floor. Finally, Herrera drove to the hole but lost control and Valencia had it under its own defensive basket. After a timeout, the Jaguars worked it to Dow for an open 14-footer in the lane, but she missed with 12 seconds left.
“I was wide open. We had the play set up. I just missed,” Dow, a senior said.
The Demonettes’s Jackie Martinez came up with the ball after a mad scramble and tucked it away like a running back before Valencia finally fouled her with 5.3 seconds left. It was only the Jags’ fourth foul, so the Demonettes retained possession.
Santa Fe inbounded the ball, but Valencia – needing to foul twice to send the Demonettes to the free-throw line – didn’t even foul once, and Santa Fe ran out the clock.
“It’s just another goal to check off our list,” said Martinez, a senior who had nine points. “We’ve overcome so many things. … We’ve beat the team that knocked us out last year (Roswell in this year’s quarterfinals). But we weren’t here (the title game). We’ve never experienced this. We can’t say we were here last year, because we weren’t. It’s kind of surreal. I don’t think it’s hit all of us.”
No. 1 LOS LUNAS 67, No. 4 GALLUP 41: The defending champion Tigers (27-4) held the Bengals (21-9) without a field goal for more than 10 minutes – and to just a single point in the third quarter – on the way to a return trip to the title game.
Los Lunas grabbed the lead for good at 5-4 on a 3-pointer by Sanae Gaerlan 2½ minutes into the game and never trailed again. The Tigers led 20-8 after the first quarter and moved it to 29-16 late in the second quarter before Gallup battled back.
The Bengals got a 3 from Tilea Reyna with 2:22 left in the half and a free throw cut it to 29-22. But Reyna’s field goal would be the Bengals last until the fourth quarter.
The score was 31-23 at the half, and remained that way for nearly six minutes before Los Lunas star senior forward Teige Zeller took control. She had eight points in a 10-1 run to end the quarter – the only scoring in the quarter.
“We’re focused right now on what we’re supposed to do,” Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller said. “We’re keyed in on other teams’ strengths. We talked about ‘respect all and fear none.’ We only beat them by five in the district tournament championship, 57-52, because we didn’t have a healthy respect for them. Today, we had the respect.”
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