Lady Eagles are 3-1; have already equaled last year’s victory total

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For a chilly Saturday night in Bernalillo, the girls basketball game between Belen and the host Spartans was interesting and entertaining, but never really heated up.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Jordan Rodriguez of Belen, right, goes up over Bernalillo’s Rachel Darnell in Saturday’s game. The Lady Eagles are set to host a 7 p.m. game against Rio Grande on Thursday.

It was not close most of the way and was not a clinic of well-run offense on either side.

The Eagles won, or more accruately, persevered, the foul-marred contest, 48-35. Belen was whistled for 29 fouls and the host Spartans picked up 20.

“There is no column that says ugly win, or pretty win,” said Eagle coach Dereck Atencio. “It is just a win. It was a hard-fought game, and we battled and finished it out. It wasn’t a pretty win, but we finished it off.”

Belen (3-1) will now have a few days to work in practice before hosting Rio Grande (0-3) on Thursday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.

The Eagles have equaled last year’s win total in just four games with their third victory of the young season. Belen broke open a tight contest in the late stages of the first quarter and into the second with a trapping full court defense.

Alexis Begay stole the ball out of the press and hit a lay up as the last score in the first period. It put Belen ahead 9-6.

Another steal and quick pass out to Mariah Forde led to a 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Eagles a 12-6 edge.

But Belen backed out of the press after Bernalillo (0-5) took a timeout to deal with the pressure.

“Because of the personnel that we have, we have to be choosy,” said Atencio of his strategy around pressuring the ball. “You can’t give a team a rhythm of what you do. There will be a day when we will be full court all of the time.”

In the third quarter, Belen held the Spartans to a couple of free throws and a trey from Alleah Candelaria, who led the Spartans with 13 points.

Belen was comfortably ahead, 41-25, going into the final period.

A Spartan full-court press bothered the Eagles, as Belen began to turn the ball over and missed numerous free throw opportunities in the early part of the fourth quarter. Belen was only 12-of-26 from the line for the night and 3-for-11 in the fourth quarter. The Eagles also turned the ball over nine times in the final eight minutes.

Bernalillo cut the lead to just 43-34, when Forde broke free as the Spartans pressed, and Jordan Rodriguez hit her with the inbounds pass. Belen’s leading scorer went the distance and laid the ball off the glass to get back the double-digit lead with 3:22 left in the game.

When asked if he was worried during the Bernalillo run, Atencio responded, “Oh yeah.”

“Don’t ever be fooled,” said the new Belen coach. “There are certain places that have an air about them that it is hard to win. From the time the clock starts until it is done, it is time to worry.”

Forde led all scorers with 21 points. Monica Garley-Moore added three field goals and went 3-of-3 from the line for nine points.

Felicia Olguin added seven points, Kaylyn Gomez had five, and Begay, Kristian Sainz and Jordan Rodriguez had two each.

Belen had 21 turnovers while Bernalillo gave the ball up 22 times.


-- Email the author at mstearns@news-bulletin.com.