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WEEKEND ROUNDUP: Late shot lifts West over Tigers; Rangerettes runner-up at Hope

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By The Staff

Relatively quiet through the first three quarters of Friday night's game vs. Aztec, John Martinez showed the Tigers he can roar, too.

Martinez took a pass from Derek Gold and dropped a three-pointer at the buzzer to break a tie and give West Las Vegas a 51-48 victory at Gillie Lopez Gym.

Martinez scored nine of his 12 points in the final quarter. None of his shots was as big as the last one.

Actually, the last five.

Aztec, riding a 14-5 run, had taken a 48-44 lead on Matthew Martinez's basket with 1:10 left in regulation, erasing a five-point Dons lead.

John Martinez, no relation, drove toward the hoop to answer and was fouled. He nailed both free throws. Then, after the Dons regained possession with a steal, he got fouled again and hit two more with 26 seconds left. This, on an evening of subpar performances on the charity stripe for West, tied the score at 48.

Aztec turned the ball over with 22 seconds left, and the Dons patiently worked the clock until Gold found Maritnez open on the perimeter. With no time left to kill, Martinez stepped up and hit the game-winner.

Adrian Rivera finished with a game-high 15 points for WLV. In addition to Martinez's 12, the Dons got 11 from Fabian Varela, 9 from Ambrosio Castellano, and 2 apiece from Zack Armijo and Chris Ellis.

Friday's contest was tight throughout, beginning as either a defensive showcase or an offensive stinker, depending on your perspective. Neither side scored until more than three and a half minutes had elapsed. At the 4:26 mark, Varela hit one of two free throws to break the ice. Armijo's layup a couple minutes later would be the only Dons field goal of the period. Aztec's Adrian Quintana hit a buzzer-beating trey to give the Tigers an 11-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Conversely, the second period saw both sides find an offensive rhythm, largely in transition. West regained the lead at 17-16 on a Varela bucket, but control changed hands repeatedly and Aztec led 29-26 at the half.

As with the first period, defense overshadowed offense in the third period. Rivera scored seven of the Dons' eight points and Quintana had all three for the Tigers, and West ended the quarter up 34-32.

The Dons led 39-34 before Aztec made its last run, retaking the lead at 44-41. The Dons tied it at 44 but Ryan Neitzel and Matthew Martinez scored to put the Tigers back in front.

WLV (9-7) hosts Thoreau at 4 p.m. today in the Dons' last pre-district game. Then they host Santa Fe Indian in a Wednesday district opener.

Aztec falls to 6-11.

•••

Also Friday night, Ruidoso's Warriors put some distance between themselves and visiting Robertson in the second half, then held on for a 62-48 win.

The Warriors jumped out to a 17-8 first-quarter advantage. Then the Cardinals rallied, outscoring their hosts 12-9 in the second period to make it 26-20 at intermission.

But Ruidoso got off to a much faster start in the third period, including a 10-5 run to go ahead by double digits. The gap reached 15, 48-33, with five minutes left.

The quickness of Robertson's guards and a few perimeter baskets helped the visitors make a run. A three-pointer by Robert Ross Romero capped the rally and trimmed the deficit to 56-48 with 46 seconds left.

Alas, the Warriors immediately replied, hitting a pair of free throws and getting scores from Mario Varela and Andrew Gilliland — all the while denying any more Cardinal offense — to finish the game.

Ruidoso avenged its Dec. 20 defeat (63-57) to Robertson and improved to 5-11. The Cardinals, 4-12, open district play Wednesday at Pojoaque Valley.

•••

Mora’s Rangerettes made a memorable run before getting a runner-up finish in the Hope Christian Invitational. Mora fell 34-25 opposite Class 3A contender Santa Fe Indian on Saturday in the championship game.

“Great defense by Santa Fe Indian,” said Mora mentor Mark Cassidy. “We made some mistakes at critical points, and you can’t do that against teams like SFIS.”

After a close first quarter, the Lady Braves — led by former NMHU coach Cindy Roybal — held the Rangerettes down in a 12-5 second period to take a 21-13 halftime cushion. Mora limited SFIS to two points in the third and closed to within 23-21, but the Lady Braves controlled the final eight minutes.

April Abeyta led SFIS with 11 points. Jessica Garcia had 11 for Mora, while Clarissa Garcia had 8 and Amanda Padilla had 6.

The Rangerettes (12-4) reached Saturday's final by winning big over tournament host Hope, 62-50, on Friday. Jessica Garcia led Mora with 18 points, Clarissa Garcia had 16, Padilla 11 and Melanie Romo 10.

The Huskies trailed just 33-27 at halftime and 38-33 through three quarters of play, but the Rangerettes were sterling from the free-throw line throughout the game and the fourth quarter was no exception. Mora was 13 of 14 from the line in that final period and finished the game 20 for 23.

While Mora was especially tough in the lane in a Thursday win over Hatch Valley, it was the guards who delivered on Friday. Mora coach Mark Cassidy noted his team sank seven three-pointers to keep the Huskies (5-11) at bay.

•••

In girls' basketball action over the weekend, No. 3 ranked West Las Vegas lost 67-60 on the road at Lovington, and Robertson fell 53-47 to Class 4A Española Valley before beating Bernalillo 45-34 in the Aztec Invitational.

The Lady Dons got off to a slow start Friday night in Lovington, 14-3 after the first period, and outscored the Lady Wildcats 57-53 the rest of the way in a 67-60 setback to the state’s second ranked team.

“We didn’t come out with focus and intensity,” said Lady Dons coach Jose Medina. “We had to battle back and it takes a lot out of you. We have to come out with intensity.” Despite the setback, Medina noted that he was pleased with the effort his Lady Dons put up.

West trailed 47-36 heading into the final period and managed to cut the lead to five, midway through the period, but missed freethrows and missed shots and Lovington put together a final run to seal the win.

Vanessa Lucero scored 16 points to lead the Lady Dons and also pulled down six rebounds and added four assists. Linda Esquibel scored 13 points and Miranda Martinez and Kristen Encinias added 12 and 7 respectively. Martinez had seven assists and seven steals. “It was a good game and great test for us,” said Medina.

The Lady Dons (12-4) play at Socorro today and then open district Thursday at Santa Fe Indian.

The Lady Cardinals (8-8) host defending Class 3A state champion Pojoaque Valley on Thursday, the district debut for both schools.

In Friday's loss to the Sundevil girls, RHS fell behind 9-6 after one quarter and trailed 21-19 at halftime. Española led 32-28 after three periods.

But the Lady Cards rebounded by handling Bernalillo in the seventh-place game.

Kassandra Tapia earned all-tournament honors.

•••

Each of New Mexico Highlands' five starters delivered double-digit scoring Friday in an 86-73 win at Regis. It would be a good start to a weekend split, as the Cowboys lost 87-57 the following night at Metro State.

Coach Joe Harge has his Cowboys 11-4 overall and 5-2 in the RMAC, their best start in years.

The Cowboys held just a two-point advantage at halftime (38-36) Friday at Regis but pulled away after the break, hitting 16 of 20 free throws in the second half. The team was 21 of 26 from the line (81 percent) in the game.

Roman Andrade (18 points, four assists), Rashad Peterson (16 points), Chris Dunn (15 points, seven rebounds, four blocks), Mindaugas Markevicus (14 points) and Jerard Moret (14 points, three steals) gave NMHU a formidable starting five. Highlands shot a blazing 51 percent overall.

Jason Burke-Kavros led the Rangers with 21 points. Bill Brandenburg accounted for 10 points and eight boards.

On Saturday at Metro, a couple of droughts — one to end the first half, the other to begin the second — burned the Cowboys against one of the RMAC’s elite teams.

The Roadrunners used a 13-1 run to end the first half, and the Cowboys were held to four points in a nine-minute span in the second half.

Roman Andrade led Highlands with 13 points. Marquise Carrington had 19 for MSCD.

•••

Held to seven field goals in the second half Friday at Regis, the Highlands Cowgirls' offensive woes led to a 78-52 defeat. And Highlands would lost the next night, 92-64, at Metro, also in Denver.

The Cowgirls (2-12, 0-7) shot 38 percent in the first half but stayed in striking distance (40-34 halftime score) thanks in part to a good effort on the boards. But they connected on just seven of 34 shots in the second half and finished with a 30 percent accuracy stat.

Desiree Valentine (13 points, six rebounds, two blocks) and Jessica Armijo (10 points, five boards, three assists) were the only Cowgirls in double figures. NMHU's leading scorer, Oliana Seanoa, was held to 9 points on 2-of-24 shooting; she also contributed a team-high nine rebounds along with three steals. Briana Gholston added 8 points and five steals.

Paulina Tuell paced Regis with 16 points; Chelsea Porter came off the bench to score 14, and Lauren Luebbe had 12.

Seanoa shined on Saturday with 19 points, but Metro’s Rae Bean one-upped her with 20 to lead five Roadrunners in double figures.

The teams were knotted up at 17-17 midway through the first half, but Metro embarked on a 12-2 run and led 38-26 at the break. Then a 16-3 Metro run to start the third forced NMHU to play catch-up.

•••

The Pecos Panthers celebrated homecoming with a win over McCurdy Saturday night, a night after stumbling in Peñasco during Peñasco’s homecoming.

Against the Bobcats, Tim Baca scored 17 of his game high 28 points in the third period as the Panthers scored a 72-45 win.

“We executed our offense, and our press created about 20 turnovers,” head coach Clyde Sanchez said.

The Panthers (10-6) outscored McCurdy 14-12 in the opening quarter and 13-9 in the second for a 27-21 halftime lead. The third period saw the Panthers offense go off as Joseph Gonzales scored nine to go along with Baca’s 17. Baca also connected on four three-point baskets in the period. The Panthers capped off the night with a 16-14 final quarter.

Gonzales ended the night with 19 points and Ricardo Ortiz added 8 and Darren Villanueva chipped in with 5 points.

On Friday night, Peñasco outscored Pecos 17-9 in the first period and increased its lead to 30-21 at intermission, for a 63-54 win. Peñasco kept the pressure on the Panthers increasing the lead to 45-29 at the end of three periods. Pecos did rally and cut the lead to six midway through the fourth period but fell short despite outscoring Peñasco 25-18 in the final period.

Baca and Gonzales each had 15 points and Darren Villanueva added 13 for Pecos.

Pecos will try for the third time this season to play a make-up game with Santa Rosa Wednesday night in Pecos.