ugg coats Tierra Encantada pressures Pecos

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Rust doesn’t always accumulate from a lack of use.

The Pecos Lady Panthers’ rust came from a lack of quality games. The District 3 3A schedule has not provided much of a road block if any at all as Pecos rolled through the district schedule for the past two seasons. So, when a challenger emerged in the form of the Tierra Encantada Lady Alacranes, the Lady Panthers struggled to match the intensity level.

Pecos executed when it needed to, milking away more than a minute off the clock in the waning moments of a 57 52 win in a physical 3 3A matchup in Santa Fe. The win all but ensures a second straight district title for the Lady Panthers (18 3, 5 0) and homecourt advantage for the 3 3A championship game in less than three weeks.

More than likely, Tierra Encantada (16 5, 4 2) will be the opponent on that day, and it might be a welcome relief for the Lady Panthers. They came into the game beating their district foes by an average of 37 points, including a 69 31 win over the Lady Alacranes in Louis G. Sanchez Memorial Gymnasium on Jan. 18.

Pecos head coach Ron Drake said not since Dulce was in its district did his team have an opponent that could push the Lady Panthers.

glad Tierra Encantada is doing good, Pecos head coach Ron Drake said. They always a good team and we always battled. So I glad Tierra is having a good year. It looks a little bit better for our district. They built a 57 45 lead with 4:03 left when the Lady Alacranes rallied around the departure of senior wing Yasmin Torres after a scary fall. Torres was bumped by Cassie Muller as she raced downcourt after a steal, losing her balance and slamming face first into the hardwood. The resulting foul caused a 25 minute delay as paramedics were called to the gym and Torres left on a stretcher.

Tierra Encantada scored seven unanswered points after the delay, fueled by a couple of steals and a couple of Pecos missed shots. When Brianna Duran hit a pair of free throws with 1:32 left, the margin was down to 57 52. Forced to foul, the Lady Alacranes put Muller up to the free throw line and she missed the front end of a 1 and 1. Anivay Herrera grabbed the rebound, but fell in the process to travel and give the ball back to the Lady Panthers.

With head coach Kurtis Montoya imploring her girls to trap or foul, the Lady Alacranes trapped but waited for 39 seconds to foul Lexi Gonzales. She missed the front end of a 1 and 1, which was a part of an 0 for 6 finish at the charity stripe for Pecos.

“Mentally, we’re tired, but we’ve come back from that,” said Muller, who finished with 17 points. “We had to settle things down with the injuries and you name it.”

Herrera again got her hands on the miss, but couldn’t hold on to it as it fell out of bounds. Reprieved yet again, Muller was fouled but missed another 1 and 1. However,
ugg coats Tierra Encantada pressures Pecos
Gonzales came up with a steal in the frontcourt. Even though she missed both of the two shot bonus, Tierra Encantada never got a shot off before the final buzzer.

“We got one offensive possession out of that,” Montoya said. “And they missed free throws like we needed.”

The Lady Alacranes looked better in their second go round because of the presence of junior guard Destiny Nevarez, who missed the first encounter because of an injury. Her ball handling skills and scoring prowess were sorely missed, as she managed 13 points and handled Pecos’ press relatively well.

On the other end, the Lady Panthers struggled against Tierra Encantada’s press, committing 34 turnovers. Twenty two of them came in the first half as they failed to either get the ball past midcourt or threw the ball away after breaking the press.

“We were just panicking on offense,” Gonzales said. “We’d just throw the ball away, and on defense, we weren’t covering the open areas.”

The Lady Panthers did a better job in the second half, committing just three turnovers over the last four minutes of the third quarter and it led to a 10 2 scoring spurt that gave them a 47 36 lead. Brittney Martinez capped the run with a 3 pointer with 24 seconds left in the quarter.

Improved ball handling siphoned off scoring opportunities for the Lady Alacranes, and they struggled in the halfcourt set by hitting just one of their last nine shots in the third. Some of that was a credit to Pecos’ defense, which was more aggressive at denying driving lanes and contesting perimeter shooters.

The other reason was the line of injured Lady Alacranes as the physical play intensified in the second half. The entire game consisted of scrums on the floor, as players dove for loose balls, and both sides saw players get knocked to the ground on hard fouls. Nevarez left the court for several minutes with a shin contusion after colliding with a Lady Panther, and Maylin Hernandez twisted her ankle when she collided with another Pecos player early in the third quarter, never to return.

Torres’ injury was perhaps the most serious, and it incited the Tierra Encantada fans, who were already frustrated by what they felt were a lack of foul calls. A fan walked out onto the court to confront the referees, demanding them to “take control of the game.” He was escorted off the premise, but it cast a pall over the game.

“It was [out of control],” Montoya said. “You notice it when one of our players has to go on a stretcher because she hit her head pretty bad. I think she’ll be OK, but it was a little stinger.”

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