Lady Jaguars upset Gallup; will host Grants

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Even with its usual one bad quarter, the Valencia High girls basketball still managed to pull a fairly major upset Tuesday night.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Mariah “Buckets” Ibuado navigates around Tilea Reyna of Gallup in Tuesday’s District 6-4A opener. Ibuado’s Lady Jaguar team upset the Bengals, 55-48, and will host Grants on Thursday, Jan. 31.

The Lady Jaguars handed the Gallup Lady Bengals only their fourth loss of the season, 55-48, in the District 6-4A opener for both teams. Valencia waned in the third quarter and midway through the fourth period, but made some key defensive stops in the end to win it.

Valencia (13-4 overall, 1-0 in District 6-4A after Tuesday) was set to play at Miyamura on Friday after News-Bulletin press time. The Jags are set to host Grants at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.

“It took us 16 games to prepare for this one,” said VHS coach Shannon Vigil after Tuesday’s game. “We got a little panicky in the second half, but we calmed down.”

Jaguar players missed the front end of two one-and-one free-throw situations in the final minutes, but Tori Torres hit both foul shots with 11.6 seconds to play for a 55-48 lead.

Torres also hit the last of her three 3-pointers with 1:08 to go that had given the Jags a 53-43 lead, but the defending 6-4A champions hung around, making two more shots in the final minute before Torres’ free throws sealed it.

Valencia got out to an excellent start, outscoring Gallup (12-4, 0-1) by a 13-2 score in the opening period. They led 27-13 at the half, but the Bengals seemed to move the ball around better in the third quarter.

After the Jags had their biggest lead of the game at 43-25, the Bengals later went on a 12-0 run to pull to within 46-41. Aided by the hustle of star senior Shanel Begay, who played much of the game in foul trouble, the Bengals created turnovers and generated more 3-point looks as the game went on.

Valencia’s taller lineup generally dominated the paint, blocking Gallup shots, although the Bengals out hustled the Jags to several key rebounds. VHS was also the beneficiary of many questionable calls in the contest.

Many Jaguars contributed to the Jags beating Gallup at VHS for the second straight year. Karina Dow had one of her better games of the season, leading the Jags with 17 points. Torres had 11, and Brenda Baeza and Miranda “Next Week” Chavez each had nine.

Chelsea Barber led the Bengals with 11 points. Begay, who had two of the team’s six 3-pointers, had 10.

Baeza was also instrumental in helping break the Gallup press. While the Jags turned the ball over on some bad passes, Valencia was consistently able to dribble across midcourt.

“It’s nice that Brenda is a little taller, because she can see the whole court,” said Vigil. “And she can dribble, if needed.”

Baeza said the turnovers pulled the team down some, but remaining calm is key.

“When things break down, we just need to relax our minds,” said Baeza. “Their pressure was a lot of what we expected.”

Vigil praised several players for their efforts, including Chavez. The junior nearly had a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots.

Valencia conquered another milestone recently when the VHS junior varsity won the championship of the Smokey Bear Classic in Capitan for the second consecutive year.

Grants is a team the Jaguars have only beaten once in five tries since joining District 6-4A. The Lady Pirates were beaten in their Tuesday district opener at Miyamura, 61-42.

“They’ve got a bunch of slashers,” said Vigil, regarding the type of lineup Grants has this season. “We need to play them with confidence.”


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