Free throws, traffic jam play into Lady Eagles' loss

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jbrooks @ news-bulletin.com

Knowing the calls don't always go a team's way at a road game, the Belen High girls basketball team was likely grateful to have arrived at Saturday's game at all.

After being stuck in I-40 traffic for about two hours due to an 18-wheeler fire, the Lady Eagles finally made it to Miyamura High in Gallup. That's where they struggled late in a 61-54 road loss to the host Lady Patriots.

The Eagles' fifth straight loss dropped their record to 7-15 overall and 1-7 in District 6-4A. They were set to play at Valencia High on Tuesday after News-Bulletin press time, and will close the regular season with a 7 p.m. game at Grants on Friday.

The district tournament is set for next week, with the championship game the weekend of March 2-3.

The Lady Eagles had some chances to overtake the Patriots in Saturday's game, where they were hoping to beat the same squad they defeated for their only district win. But free throws and turnovers hurt the Eagles down the stretch.

Miyamura (10-12, 2-6) made 17 of its 23 free-throw attempts in the contest, while the Eagles were an insipid 6-for-17. The Patriots went 14-of-19 in the fourth quarter, while Belen was only 1-of-5.

"We got it to about a one- or two-point game early in the fourth quarter," said Belen's first-year coach, Dereck Atencio. "Miyamura then spaced the floor on us, and we fouled, trying to be aggressive. We started well, but we have got to finish better."

Sophomore point guard Mariah Forde had a game-high 26 points to lead the Eagles, including the team's only two 3-pointers. Kristian Sainz added 11.

Belen led 13-8 after one quarter, and later trailed by less than 10 points in the second half.

Miyamura made five 3-pointers, and got 13 points from Nicole Money and 12 from Timara King. Belen made four more shots from the field than the Patriots, but was also called for six more fouls.

Atencio agreed the Eagles probably need to win next week's district tournament completely in order to earn what would be their first state-tourney appearance since 2009. However, he feels the team needs to develop a reliable third scoring option to go along with Forde and Sainz.

"We haven't had anyone really step up," said Atencio.


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