ALBUQUERQUE – The Laguna-Acoma Lady Hawks’ dream of winning its first-ever New Mexico State Basketball Championship came crashing to the “Pit” floor on Friday evening in a 64-57 losing effort to the Navajo Pine Lady Warriors.
The Lady Warriors used a 19-8 third quarter to erase a four-point halftime deficit, and built a seven point lead heading into the last eight minutes of action. When the final buzzer sounded, it was the Navajo Pine Lady Warriors who would be walking off the Pit floor with the coveted blue trophy.
Laguna-Acoma Head Coach Randy Hunt said the loss was not for a lack of effort on his team’s part.
“The girls played hard and they gave it every Laguna-Acoma Lady Hawk effort they had,” Hunt said. “Navajo Pine just gave more.”
The “more” Hunt may have been talking about was Navajo Pine’s Kaitlin Chee and Demetria Clichee whose points comprised just over 70 percent of the Lady Warriors’ total offense.
Chee pitched in 22 points and Clichee had 23.
Minutes into the second half, Navajo Pine’s Erin Dolfin came off the bench and hit a spinning bucket inside the paint, and then, after a quick time out by Laguna-Acoma, Dolfin found herself alone in the left corner for an open three-pointer, which put the Lady Warriors ahead by 11 points.
Laguna-Acoma’s usual unstoppable offense could find no momentum the rest of the game, still they nearly managed to match Navajo Pine bucket for bucket the rest of the game.
A long three-point bucket by Raquel Aguino did little to minimize the sting as the clocked ticked down to zero.
Aguino finished the contest with 13 points, Randi Romero was high point player for Laguna-Acoma with 19 and Lacy Natseway and Aubree Carr each had 10.
Hunt said his team was visibly shocked after the loss to Navajo Pine.
“They’re speechless right now; we haven’t had this feeling in about 19 games and you never prepare for something like this,” Hunt said.
Clichee and her teammates knew this was going to be a battle until the end and they were prepared for that.
“No matter what the score was, we seniors knew that we had to leave everything out on the court,” Clichee said.
Navajo Pine Head Coach Aretha Mariano had no doubt in her mind who was the better team when both schools stepped onto the court that evening.
“We always knew these girls were better than Laguna,” Mariano said. “The first time we played them we weren’t ready.”
She said she has never known a group of players who worked harder than this team and they were always bothering her to open up the gym even on her days off.
Mariano talked a little about losing to Laguna-Acoma in December, but said that was in the past and the only thing that mattered was who came out on top in the final game of the season.
Hunt said he will think about this loss and it does hurt that the Lady Hawks were unable to bring home the trophy for the community.
“I just thank them for everything they’ve done to make my life better,” Hunt said.
Laguna-Acoma closes its season with 27 wins and four losses, though the first three losses did not hurt as much as the final one.