Mescalero Apache girls to play in first-ever state finals
RIO RANCHO, N.M.
As the tournament’s No. 8 seed, the Mescalero Apache girls’ basketball team is playing the part of spoilers at this year’s New Mexico Class 2A state playoffs.
Two days after knocking out top-seeded Texico in the state quarterfinals, Mescalero Apache took down another team seeded higher than them. The Lady Apaches advanced into the 2A championship game by getting past No. 4 Dulce by a 46-40 count on Thursday morning at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
“We got the lucky No. 8 seed so we’re playing great,” Lady Chief coach Elmer Chavez said. “Our girls have made history because Mescalero Apache has never been to the finals. And, you know, Mescalero Apache had not won a first round game before.”
The Lady Chiefs will play the late game winner between No. 2 Penasco and No. 3 seed Pecos at the Dream Style Arena “aka the Pit” on Friday at 5 p.m. on the University of New Mexico campus.
“I thought we played great and the one thing I wanted to make sure we did was handle their press,” Chavez said. “We kind of got shook up early in the first quarter and I don’t know why my girls were afraid.
“I was asking them ‘why are you afraid? We’re the best team here,'” he said. “Once we settled down and we started attacking their press and going inside it turned out well for us.”
Trailing 17-7 at the end of the first quarter, Chavez said they made some adjustments in breaking Dulce’s press. And when they got the ball on their end of the court they ran some plays for forward Fallon Velasquez.
The Mescalero Apache junior responded by scoring 24 of her game-best 28 points in the last three quarters.
“They pressured us but we’re used to that,” Velasquez said. “We just had to get the ball in the right hands and once we ran our press breaker I knew we would be fine.”
Velasquez tallied 10 in the second quarter as the Lady Chiefs knotted the score at 22-all at the break.
In the second half, the Chiefs gained some breathing room by taking a 35-28 cushion at the end of the third. They pushed that margin to as much as 9 points before Dulce got within 39-36 with 4:08 left in the contest on a pair of treys from senior Brooke Vigil, who scored a team-high 18 points.
After Mescalero Apache built a six-point cushion late in the contest, Vigil went off for 4 straight points to get the Lady Hawks within 42-40.
Nonetheless, Velasquez sealed the win by knocking down 4-of-4 from the charity line.