WEB EXCLUSIVE: Belen girls Be-’Deviled in state hoops loss

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Coach Dereck Atencio said his Belen basketball team struggled in the third quarter all season long – and the Eagles game against Espanola Valley in the first round of the Class 4A Girls Basketball Tournament was no exception.

Belen scored just seven points against the Lady Sundevils Friday night as host Espanola applied defensive pressure to edge their way to a 54-39 win at Espanola High to eliminate the Eagles from the postseason.

Belen finished 12-14 on the season.

“The played with a lot of fire and passion,” said Atencio, who said the Eagles were down two players due to injury and family commitments.

“Espanola is a good team,” he said. They put pressure on our ball handlers and went to some different pressure looks that got us a little out of rhythm.”

Junior guard Mariah Forde, who absorbed most of the Sundevils’ second half defensive fury, scored 12 points along with senior Kristian Sainz, who also scored 12 points. Junior Kaylyn Gomez added seven points in the loss.

The Eagles trailed 14-11 going into the second half and 27-23 at halftime, but their dismal third quarter doomed them. The brief successes the Eagles experienced in the first half were quickly extinguished by the hosts’ play, Atencio said.

“We had a couple of good spurts but then they’d hit a a 3-pointer or make a big play that knocked us back on our heels a bit, he said.

Despite losing both post-season games, the Eagles grew and improved as the season went on, Atencio said.
“I think overall we’re doing a great job, especially when you look where the program was when this staff took over and where we were after one year,” he said. “We did a lot of things that hadn’t been done here in a long time – being ranked in the top 10, beatinga top 5 team. We’ve continued to build and develop the program.

Belen loses three seniors form this squad – Sainz, center Monica Garley-Moore and forward Allison Lehman.

“It’s going to hurt,” Atencio said of losing the trio. “Kristian did a great job and played great defense even though she was at a height disadvantage.  And she was a reliable scorer.”

Alison and Moncia were solid,, very helpful players,” he said. I’m glad we were able to help them finish their run (at BHS) in the state tournament. We really valued what they did for us.”

The Eagles should return eight juniors next season, including Forde, guards Desiree Sainz Alexis Begay and post Amanda Menchaca, which gives the team a decided advantage with experience.

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