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Girls Class 4A: Santa Fe ends title drought

Santa Fe head coach Elmer Chavez, left, celebrates with Jackie Martinez after the Demonettes beat Los Lunas in the Class 4A championship game Friday at the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Fe head coach Elmer Chavez, left, celebrates with Jackie Martinez after the Demonettes beat Los Lunas in the Class 4A championship game Friday at the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The ruckus being made at the bottom of the Pit was certainly loud enough. But the ear-splitting noise coming up the ramp could be heard all the way to Santa Fe High School.

The second-seeded Demonettes squealed and screamed their way up from Bob King Court, and for excellent reason. They ended a 26-year championship drought, out-defending the defending state champions from Los Lunas 34-29 on Friday night in the girls Class 4A title game.

“They got theirs last year,” Santa Fe coach Elmer Chavez said of Los Lunas.

Not since 1988 had the Demonettes (30-2) ascended to this level, but, after what can safely be described as a dismal first half, Santa Fe cobbled together two superb quarters, particularly on the defensive end, to rally past the No. 1 seed.

“Our defense was tremendous the whole night,” Chavez said.

Which was beneficial, because the offense was, um, not.

Chavez had a response to that, too, saying he spoke to the team using a Super Bowl analogy from Seattle’s romp of Denver.

“The best defense overcame the best offense,” he said.

Santa Fe’s Jackie Martinez, right, swipes at the basketball as Los Lunas’ Teige Zeller (33) drives to the basket. “I don’t even know what happened,” Zeller said after the loss. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Fe’s Jackie Martinez, right, swipes at the basketball as Los Lunas’ Teige Zeller (33) drives to the basket. “I don’t even know what happened,” Zeller said after the loss. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The Demonettes made only four out of 24 field-goal attempts in the first half, and it took them 4½ minutes to record their first point.

With Los Los Lunas closing the second quarter on a 7-0 run – Elise Tapia buried a 3-pointer to get things going – the Tigers led 18-9 at halftime.

Santa Fe’s defense in the second half was brilliant in filling passing lanes and swarming the middle – a successful venture, as it turns out – in an effort to limit the effectiveness of Los Lunas’ University of Nevada-bound senior post, Teige Zeller.

The 6-foot-2 Zeller finished with eight points (11 below her season average) and attempted only eight shots as Santa Fe clogged the paint and put several bodies on her or near her.

“Our ball movement in the second half was probably the worst it was all year,” Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller, Teige’s father, said.

Teige Zeller was hard pressed to remember if she had another game since transferring to Los Lunas from Grants in which she didn’t reach double figures.

“I don’t even know what happened,” Zeller said.

While the Demonettes’ defense swarmed, the offense – at least in relation to the first half – began heating up.

Jackie Martinez’s 3-pointer from the far corner cut the Los Lunas lead to 22-20 early in the fourth quarter, and a short jumper by post Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage gave Santa Fe its first lead of the night at 26-24 with 4:37 left in the game.

Zeller answered at the other end to tie the game; Santa Fe’s Kayla Herrera untied it.

Left alone on the wing in front of her own bench, she fired home a 3-pointer and a 29-26 lead with 3:22 to go.

“I knew it was good,” Herrera said.

That was the start of an 8-0 run; Los Lunas had a late, and completely cosmetic 3-pointer, to avoid going scoreless the final 3:59. Turnovers were a problem in the second half; twice the Tigers turned it over coming out of a timeout.

Los Lunas (27-5) had won 20 in a row coming into Friday. This was, by eight, a season-low in points for the Tigers.

As poorly as Santa Fe shot the ball in the first half, Los Lunas was just as bad in the second half.

The Tigers shot 18 percent (4 of 22) in the final two quarters. They also were outrebounded 44-30 by a more energetic Demonettes bunch, who really burned Los Lunas with offensive rebounds.

“We said at the start of the state tournament that rebounding was gonna be the key, that’s for sure,” Marty Zeller said. “It caught up with us.”

Martinez had 15 points and seven rebounds to lead Santa Fe. Lozada-Cabbage had eight points and eight boards.

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