Lady Eagles adjust after loss, win at Academy

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If the Belen High girls basketball team continues to improve in two key areas — passing and ball handling — the Lady Eagles could be in for another long season.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Kaylyn Gomez drives past Albuquerque Academy’s Ali Stratton in Thursday’s BHS win. The Lady Eagles split this week’s season-opening games and are set to host a 7 p.m. game against Moriarty on Thursday, Dec. 6.

Belen took that lesson to heart in posting a 38-30 win at Albuquerque Academy on Thursday night. The Eagles only had seven turnovers, as opposed to 32 in Tuesday’s 53-46 loss at Socorro.

The Eagles are hoping to improve upon its last two frustrating seasons under first-year coach Dereck Atencio. Belen only went 3-21 last year.

Mariah Forde led the way as the high scorer in both contests on the road and the Eagles looked better defensively against Academy.

Belen (1-1) is hoping to continue its winning next Thursday. That’s when the Eagles play their home opener, hosting Moriarty for a 7 p.m. game.

This week, the Eagles led most of the way in their season opener before losing at Socorro. They led most of the game at Academy and survived the Charger late run.

Atencio noted the difference between the two games.

“Just that we had to relax and play within ourselves,” said the Eagle coach. “I thought that we did a much better job (Thursday). Against Socorro, we were not ‘us’. We did a much better job of playing within our selves and within our core philosophy.”

Thursday’s win was Atencio’s first as a head coach. Excited, Atencio smiled and said, “I think we will go get some ice cream.”

Socorro 53, Belen 46

In a sloppy season opener for both teams, the host Lady Warriors (1-0) made slightly fewer mistakes in the fourth quarter, and Belen’s top scorer, Forde, fouled out with 4:59 left in the game.

Forde scored 28 points in the contest, and handled much of the ball handling duties. Without the sophomore in the lineup, the Eagles ended up being outscored 24-8 in the fourth quarter.

Neither team passed well, especially in transition, but Belen seemed to be on the worse end of the turnover battle. The Belen guards looked rushed, and frequently passed the ball into traffic, or the intended receiver wasn’t looking for the ball.

The teams traded the lead a few times in the first half. A few layups by Forde late in the second quarter helped the Eagles forge a 27-23 halftime edge, and Belen held a 38-29 lead by the end of the third quarter.

A 3-pointer by Socorro’s Ashton Monette, with 4:14 left in the contest, gave the Warriors their first lead of the game at 42-41. That seemed to take some life out of the Eagles, who couldn’t seem to rebound, drive to the basket or finish shots much the rest of the way.

After Socorro capped a 11-2 run by going up 47-43, the Warriors ran the clock down almost to the one-minute mark, and Belen never got any closer.

The Eagles were whistled for 31 fouls in the contest, to only 22 against the Warriors. Many of the fouls seemed questionable, but also, Belen didn’t take advantage of many of its foul-shot or layup opportunities.

Socorro made 28 of its 44 foul shots, including 10-of-17 in the fourth quarter, while Belen was only 12-of-25 in the game.

Forde was the only Eagle to score more than four points, and she was one of three Belen players to foul out.

Socorro, which didn’t have any players foul out, was led by Bryahna Baca’s 19 points and 13 from Theresa Chavez.

—Jason W. Brooks

Belen 38, Alb. Academy 30

The Eagles broke open a tight contest with a 7-0 run to begin the second half, and then went into the four-corners offense to protect the 20-10 lead.

It almost backfired, as Academy went on a 13-3 run to open the fourth period. The Chargers got as close as 31-27 with 4:41 left in the game before Forde hit an inside shot to extend the lead.

Belen’s defense held the rest of the way as Academy only got three free-throw points in the game’s final minutes.

Forde led the Belen scoring with 19 points and, unlike the Socorro game where she fouled out, only picked up three fouls. She did sit for the first part of the final quarter before Academy closed the gap.

“They were calling it tight,” said Atencio of Forde’s ability to back away at the right times on defense. “She played it really smart to back out of it, because they were looking at her.”

The instant maturity of Forde on defense and the whole team’s disciplined play from the disappointing loss at Socorro impressed the coach.

“(It was) huge,” Atencio said. “We were not near as smart as we were tonight. This is the kind of game that makes you better as a team, better as a program and brings you closer together.”

Kristian Sainz scored five in the win, and Monica Garley added four. Alexis Holguin had four points and Ari Valdez, Jordan Rodriguez and Felicia Olguin all scored two.

Academy was led by Ali Stratton’s 10 points. She was the only Charger to reach double-figures.

Forde was incredible from the free throw line, securing the game late. She hit 10-of-12 from the line, including the final two points of the game with 40 seconds left.

—Mike Stearns