In 2005, the Mosquero girls basketball team made a historic run to the state tournament.
And even though that season ended with a heartbreaking loss, a decade later the tears have dried and some players are able to look back and appreciate what they accomplished.
Mosquero, a ranching community about 20 miles south of Roy in Harding County, had a population of 120 in 2005. There was only one school, which served grades K-12, with an enrollment of 57. Mosquero, which had a 2005 senior class of eight, had never had a girls team make the state tournament.
Then Jerry Hazen and his group of girls came along.
In Hazen’s third year as head coach, Mosquero finished the regular season with a record of 13-11 and earned a No. 7 seed at state.
“That particular ballclub was one of the hardest-working bunch of girls that anybody could ask for,” Hazen said. “They had the desire to win, and whatever it took to get to that point, that’s what they were willing to do. That was amazing.”
That hard work was personified by senior Misti Gutierrez, who played every game of the 2004-05 season despite tearing her ACL before the year began.
“She ran part of the game and drug her leg part of the game,” Hazen said. “She tore an ACL as a junior, missed essentially all of that year. Then she tore the ACL in her other knee as a senior, and bless her heart, she just worked through it.”
Gutierrez, who now works as a cowgirl in Mosquero, knew as the season went on and the community rallied around her and her teammates that her decision to keep playing was the right one.
“It was more than just high school basketball games,” Gutierrez said. “It pretty much brought the community together. They came out and supported us, it was pretty awesome.”
While Gutierrez would not miss her last chance to play basketball at Mosquero, there nearly weren’t enough players to field a team.
“We had to beg a couple of girls who weren’t really into basketball or hadn’t really played much before,” said Michelle Green, who was one of four seniors on the team and now works at a vet clinic in Texas. “We just wanted to play so bad, and we thought that with the coach we had they would enjoy it. They got on board.”
Coach Hazen began selling the team to some girls at the school and ended up with eight players on the 2005 team.
“I was one of the ones they recruited,” Hilary Holmes said. “I was definitely not going to play. I hated basketball with every fiber of my being, but coach turned it around for me, and now it’s one of my favorite sports.
“He has a certain way of making everything seem important and changing your views on things. He brought us together and made us a strong team.”
Now Mosquero had enough numbers to play games, but practice was still an issue.
“We had enough girls, but there was only eight of them,” Hazen said. “It was difficult to practice, so we would recruit people to come in and play defense on them and offense against them. If you walked down the hallway during practice, you were liable to get dragged into the gym to play defense.”
The practices worked well enough for the Lady Pirates to complete their preseason goal of qualifying for the Class 1A state tournament.
“It was pretty awesome,” Green said. “At sometimes it felt like a dream, like we really weren’t there. But it was a lot of work, too.”
Gutierrez added: “Everything we had been working for the past three seasons finally paid off.”
Mosquero opened the state tourney at Bernalillo High School against No. 2 Carrizozo in front of more than 200 Mosquero fans.
“It was really exciting,” said Holmes, who is now a middle school teacher in Hatch. “The whole town came out to support us and send us off to the state tournament. We had so much support from the community, it was really something.”
Mosquero’s dream season ended with a nightmare as Carrizozo took the lead with just over 90 seconds and sent the Lady Pirates back to Mosquero with a 35-34 loss.
“There was a lot of tears, a lot of different emotions,” Gutierrez said. “It was like we weren’t done yet. I think it’s harder to lose by one point than to lose by 10 or 15. Any one of us could have scored the one point.”
Green added: “It was devastating. When you’re in high school that’s your life. I thought my world was over.”
Hazen helped his team put the difficult end to the season aside and realize they did something special.
“That was one of the conversations our coach had with us after the game in the locker room: To not hang our heads and just walk out proud that we accomplished what we did,” Gutierrez said. “We made history and nobody can take that away from us.”