Recover password

Class 2A girls final: Top seed Tatum rides pressure to victory

Tatum has a sign posted in its dressing room that it lives by on the basketball court:  Relentless.

And it was relentless defensive pressure that eventually paid dividends.

The top-seeded Coyotes (26-5) shook off a 4-for-27 first-half shooting performance and forced sixth-seeded Escalante into 20 second-half turnovers en route to a 43-30 victory in the 2A girls final Friday night at the Pit.

It was Tatum’s third state championship finals appearance in four years and second state title in that span.

The Coyotes won the 1A championship in 2014.

“It’s amazing,” said Tatum guard Kenna McNeil, who scored a game-high 15 points. “It’s a pretty good feeling to have 12 people you can depend on. Even if we lost, we would still be a family.”

Given the difficulty of scoring in the first half, Tatum dismissed the 3-point shot, went to the basket with gusto and relied on its season-long staple: defense.

“The third quarter has been big for us all year long,” said Tatum coach Greg Slover. “We believed in each other, and we knew we would hit some shots sooner or later. We just kept ourselves alive, and stayed in the game.”

Sarah Hurd had eight points for Escalante (22-8) before suffering a knee injury that sidelined her most the second half.

Lobos 6-footer Tori Salazar added seven points and 13 rebounds, and her inside presence forced Tatum to shy away from dribble penetration in the opening half.

Tatum’s reticence to take the ball to the basket eventually succumbed to determination.

“We lost focus of what we had to do,” said Escalante head coach Tara Terrazas-Martinez. “This is something that our school has never done, and these girls made history. The moment just took over.”

Celeste Jimenez started a 9-2 run for Tatum to end the third quarter. She hit a short runner inside the lane and later converted a three-point play after an Escalante turnover to help open a 31-23 lead.

Tatum matched that 9-2 run over the first six minutes of the third quarter nailing seven of nine from the foul line. In the fourth quarter, the Coyotes made just one field goal but got clutch free throw shooting.

“The reality is that the last two years we were here (at the Pit), we lost,” McNeil said. “We didn’t want that to happen again.”

The Journal’s Josh Grajeda contributed to this report.

N0. 1 TATUM 43,


ESCALANTE (22-8): Tori Salazar 3-10 1-4 7, Rayann Mora 0-3 0-0 0, Martina Mercure 0-0 0-0 0, Makeely Garcia 0-1 0-0 0, Rikki Rivas 1-1 0-0 2, Tanisha Torrez 1-7 0-1 2, Ephernie Domingo 3-8 0-0 6, Alex Marquez 1-4 2-6 5, Victoria Valdez 0-0 0-0 0, Sarah Hurd 4-13 0-0 8. Totals:  13-47 3-11 30.

TATUM (26-5): Bailey O’Connor 1-11 2-6-4, Madison Rice 2-6 3-4-7; Celeste Jimenez 3-12 2-3-8, Adriana Duran 2-7 3-4 7, Kenna McNeil 3-9 8-10-15, Erika Cardenas 1-5 0-0-2, Abigail Duran 0-0 0-0 0. Totals:  12-50 18-27 43.

Escalante     8  7   8   7—30

Tatum         3 10 18 12—43

3-point FG: E 1-6 (Mercure 0-2, Torrez 0-1, Domingo 0-1, Marquez 1-2); T 1-11 (McNeil 1-4, Ad. Duran 0-2, Jimenez 0-3, O’Connor 0-2). Rebounds: E 50 (Salazar 13); T 36 (Jimenez 11). Assists:  E 9 (Salazar 3); T 6 (O’Connor, Jimenez 2). Turnovers:  E 28; T 9. Steals: E 4; T 13. Blocked shots: E 6; T 1. Team fouls: E 23; T 15. Fouled out: E, Mercure, Domingo. Technical Fouls: E, Hurd.