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Lady Cardinals fall in district championship

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By Caitie Ihrig

In a tough district tournament championship, the Robertson Lady Cardinals (25–2) fell in front of a home crowd to the Santa Fe Indian Braves (24–4) 57–51, in Friday night's District 2–3A title game.

“Hopefully, we learn from that game,” Robertson coach Jose Medina said. “We learn from our mistakes and what we have to do to get better. Next time we get on the court, we take care of business and we play well. It’s just like losing another game — it’s going to hurt for a little bit and you let it go and move on and we start preparing for the next game.”

The Lady Cards still went on to earn a No. 1 seed in the Class 3A state tourney from a New Mexico Activities Association committee. The seedings, announced Sunday, bring No. 16 seed Cobre to RHS for a 6 p.m. first-round game Friday.

Last Friday's 2-3A final marked the fourth time the Cards and Santa Fe Indian have faced each other this season, with RHS winning the three previous matchups by 14 points or more.

“It’s always hard when you play a team four times,” Medina said. “There’s always going to be adjustments made. Teams are going to come in prepared differently for you. We tried to make adjustments too, it just didn’t work out. Santa Fe Indian had a good game plan. They came in and they played hard. They executed and they beat us.”

Medina said the biggest challenge for his team was being able to stay focused during the game.

“Just the intensity of the game,” he said. “Santa Fe Indian came in and ready to play. They brought the game at us and we didn’t step up to the challenge tonight. Hopefully, we learn from that game and next time somebody brings it at us like that, we take it right back at them.”

The Lady Braves started the quarter off strong, scoring seven points in the first three minutes while holding the Lady Cardinals to two. Robertson started to make a come back when senior forward Jazmyne Jenkins and senior guard Alianza Darley scored, putting them down 7–6. A layup from senior Iris Emery extended Santa Fe Indian’s lead back to three, but two free throws from sophomore guard Shayla Hillis and a layup from Jenkins gave Robertson a 10–9 lead.

Less than 40 seconds later senior Camilla Lewis scored the Lady Brave’s final two points of the quarter, but two points each from freshman forward Jayden Jenkins and junior guard Tessa Ortiz put the Lady Cardinals up 14–12 at the end of the first.

Robertson then extended their lead to four with a field goal from Darley, but Santa Fe Indian responded less than 15 seconds later with two points of their own. At the 6:26 mark, Robertson’s junior guard Gabriela Trujillo made a 3-pointer and within the next three minutes each team added four points to the board, making the score 23–18.

With just under three minutes left in the half, freshman Cameron Conners made both of her free throws to cut the Lady Brave’s deficit to three. Emery and Conners scored two points each in the next 20 seconds to give Santa Fe Indian a 24–23 lead. To close out the half at the 1:15 mark, Emery scored to extend their lead to three.

The Lady Cardinals started off the scoring in the third as Jayden made one of her two free throws to put them down by two, but the Lady Braves added the next seven points to take a 33–24 lead. Robertson was unable to score again until the 4:11 mark when Jenkins added two points to the board and about 30 seconds later Ortiz made both of her free throws to make the score 33–28.

After Santa Fe Indian senior Leanna Lewis made both of her free throws, Hillis made a 3-pointer, but senior Marlena Yazzie responded with a 3-pointer of her own to put the Lady Braves up 38–31. Within the last two minutes of the quarter, Robertson scored three points from Darley and Jenkins, but Santa Fe Indian added six points from Leanna and Conners.

Within the first minute of the fourth, the Lady Cardinals added three points to cut the Lady Braves lead to seven, but at the 5:17 mark the lead was extended back to nine when junior Hunter Garcia made both of her free throws.

Less 40 seconds later, Jenkins missed both of her free throws, but Darley rebounded the ball and made a layup to put Robertson down 46–39.

Within the last four minutes, Robertson scored 12 points and Santa Fe Indian added 11 points as neither team was able to add more than three points at a time. Jenkins led the Lady Cardinals with eight points while Trujillo and Ortiz and three and one, respectively. For the Lady Braves, Emery and Garcia had three points each, Leanna had two and Lewis, Yazzie and junior Frankie Chavez each made one free throw.

Medina said his players didn’t take care of the ball or rebound well, but that fouls hurt them the most.

“(Santa Fe Indian is) a good free throw shooting team,” he said. “Every time we put them on the free throw line, they made their free throws. It hurt us and benefited them. We missed a lot of free throws and they made a lot. That’s the difference right there.”