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District tourneys - A big assist

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Rangerettes win district; Panthers drop Mora in boys’ final; Lady Dons extend top seed to OT

By Dave Kavanaugh

MORA — It’s fitting that in her one minute and 24 seconds of playing time at the end of Mora’s 58-29 win over Santa Fe Prep in the District 2-2A girls’ championship Friday night, Kayla Romero got into the stat book with an assist.

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She drew a Prep defender toward the top of the key, then dished the ball to Maria Garcia, who popped in a three-pointer from the left corner for the Rangerettes’ final points.

Romero did not have the robust stat lines of teammates like Chantel Rivera (27 points, five rebounds) and Destiny Pacheco (16 points, 10 boards). But her impact on this team, which completed the season 25-2 overall, has been no less significant.

Her inspirational value alone has been an assist this season.

Romero, a Mora senior who’s already fought off cancer once, has been battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma  since she was diagnosed early this season. The ensuing months of grueling chemotherapy and stem cell treatments have sapped her energy and tested her resolve. But they have not altered her commitment to the Rangerettes or her school.

She not only attends boys’ games, she also practices — albeit in limited fashion — and occasionally plays in her own team’s contests when her blood levels allow for it.

She was pushing to do so on Friday, even agreeing to a pregame blood transfusion at Santa Fe’s Christus St. Vincent Hospital to pump up the low levels she was experiencing. But when she learned the procedure would take too long to allow her to make the game, she opted to delay the transfusion if only so she could support her teammates from the sidelines.

Inside crowded Montoya Gym, the Rangerettes broke open a 12-8 game, outscoring the Blue Griffins 18-4 in the second period to go up 30-12 by halftime. They outscored Prep 23-7 in the third to make it 53-19.

Romero watched as coach Mark Cassidy substituted players in and out of the lineup.

Then with 1:24 on the clock, he called her name.

As she made her way to check in, fans stood and cheered. Romero was all business, getting to work on defense.

She missed her only shot from about 16 feet away, the ball sailing on the back of the rim before sliding out.

Then she displayed her point guard skills, zipping the ball to Garcia for a score.

Minutes later, she and the rest of the Rangerettes unfurled the district championship banner, posed for photographs and accepted hugs from supporters.

“Any chance I get to play her, I do,” Cassidy said of Romero. “A lot depends on her blood count. She’s a trooper. She doesn’t let (her condition) get to her.”

Romero has a Facebook page dedicated to encouraging others. She shares her latest experiences and thoughts, along with scripture.

Does the much more serious battle Romero faces daily provide the Rangerettes a better perspective of what matters?

“I sure hope so,” he said.

“When we experience little aches and pains or maybe things don’t go their way, I tell them, ‘Think about Kayla. She’d trade places with you in a second.’”

• • •

On Saturday night, Pecos rocked Mora 93-51 in the District 2-2A boys’ tournament final.

The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in the state, led just 16-12 after one period but it was 53-33 at the break.

• • •

West Las Vegas’ girls — winners of three straight road games in four nights — lost 65-58 in overtime Friday night at top-seeded Taos.

Robertson lost 61-58 at eventual district runner-up Taos in Friday’s boys’ semifinal.

See Wednesday’s Optic for full coverage of state seedings.