Peñasco knocks off defending Class 2A state champion Pecos in title game

By Matthew Narvaiz
sports@taosnews.com
Posted 1/10/20

The Ben Luján Gymnasium at Pojoaque Valley High School on Saturday (Jan. 4) was more reminiscent of a college basketball game than a high school one.

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Peñasco knocks off defending Class 2A state champion Pecos in title game

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The Ben Luján Gymnasium at Pojoaque Valley High School on Saturday (Jan. 4) was more reminiscent of a college basketball game than a high school one.

The gymnasium was packed to the brim for the Northern Río Grande Tournament girls championship game between Peñasco and defending Class 2A state champions Pecos.

The atmosphere, however, had no negative effect on the Lady Panthers. Instead, they played to the tune of their cheering fans and came away with a 57-40 victory.

"They're the author of their own story," Peñasco head coach Mandy Montoya said after her team's tournament win. "It was big, the crowd was big. It was fun."

Against Escalante, Peñasco (11-1) struggled but still came away with a 53-37 victory to send them to the championship. Still, Montoya said it wasn't her team's brand of basketball and that their goal was to rebound against Pecos by playing their game -- and they did.

The Lady Panthers got on the board first when senior post Ariana MacAuley got a steal and dished it to sophomore wing Martina Tafoya for a layup. Later in the quarter, Tafoya scored again on a transition 3-pointer.

Up by five points to start the second quarter, Peñasco's full-court pressure started to have an effect on Pecos. Sophomore Maricela MacAuley eventually put the Lady Panthers up by 10 points when she scored on a layup -- and from there it was mostly smooth sailing.

Peñasco had a 36-20 lead after the break and didn't slow down either. Pecos (11-3) opened up the third quarter by committing a turnover, which led to another 3-pointer from Tafoya.

The Lady Panthers went on a 9-0 run in the third quarter before Pecos called a timeout with about two and a half minutes in the frame.

"When we run in transition it puts a lot of pressure," Montoya said of her team's offense. "We get easy looks like that."

In the fourth quarter, Pecos junior guard Trinity Herrera tried to carry her team's load, scoring the first four points of the frame. That eventually sparked an 8-0 run by her team before Montoya called a timeout.

But after the timeout, Peñasco came out strong once again and got a basket from Adrianna Tafoya, one of the final baskets to eventually seal the game.

"It pays off," Carly Gonzales said when asked how much veteran experience matters in a championship game. "Just being at the state tournament and having that big crowd, and learning control and focus on your team and self … I feel like having that experience really kicked in.

"Just focusing on ourselves and writing our own stories," Gonzales continued. "I feel like our main part was don't worry about Pecos, worry about us because we are competing against ourselves."

How did Peñasco make it to the championship game?

Peñasco entered the NRG Tournament as the No. 1 seed and played that way for the entirety of it. The Lady Panthers' first game came against the likes of Dulce, who they beat 85-15.

They then faced Escalante in the second round and had a much tougher time. Peñasco fell behind early in the first quarter and eventually tied it up at 21 points entering the half.

It wasn't until the second half that they got things going, as they scored 14 points and 16 points, respectively, while holding Escalante to under 10 points in each of the final two quarters.

What's next?

The Lady Panthers will now have two matches in a row against McCurdy - once on the road on Thursday (Jan. 9) and again at home a week later on Thursday (Jan. 16).

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