Rio Rancho overwhelms Demonettes in 61-17 win
RIO RANCHO — Santa Fe High head coach Nate Morris hoped the magic of Saturday’s win would carry over to Wednesday.
The Santa Fe High Demonettes played perhaps their best game of the season in jumping out to a 23-2 lead on Roswell en route to a 54-42 win.
It seemed to signal Santa Fe High might be turning the corner.
Then came the detour of reality in the form of the host Rio Rancho Lady Rams. Employing a full-court press and focusing on stopping Santa Fe High senior wing Taylor Salazar, Rio Rancho overwhelmed the Demonettes and raced to a 61-17 win in a nondistrict game.
Morris identified his team’s issue succinctly.
“The speed of their trap forced a lot of turnovers,” Morris said. “You can’t score points if you’re turning the ball over.”
Which is why the Lady Rams (5-0) jumped out to a 9-0 lead and outscored the Demonettes 28-4 in the second quarter. They held an insurmountable 45-11 lead at the half.
The only traction Santa Fe High (4-5) found came after Morris called a timeout after the nine-point run. Salazar knocked down a 3 and hit a jumper to help trim the margin to 11-5, and a glimmer of hope had been restored.
“We thought we were going to come back,” senior guard Mari Fernandez said. “We weren’t really worried. We were like, ’It goes out like this, we’ll be all right. We’ll get it back
Only, they never did.
Rio Rancho forced 14 turnovers in the second quarter, and those often came in bunches.
Three in a row led to six points for the Lady Rams to up the lead to 23-7 after Laura Gutierrez’s steal and layup in the opening half. Salazar hit a runner in the lane with 3:50 left to cut the lead to 25-11.
But another trio of Lady Rams turnovers kick-started a 20-0 run. That ended when Anya Mirabal collected a steal at midcourt and flipped the ball to Brianna Erickson for a layup with 5 seconds left and a 34-point cushion.
Morris said Santa Fe High didn’t execute its plan to break Rio Rancho’s press, which stressed the Demonettes’ decision-making skills.
“They gotta trust that what we’re trying to do is going to work,” Morris said.
“We got to be patient with it. We got 10 seconds [to advance the ball past the half-court line]. I’ve told them once before that I’d rather get a 10-second call than give up a layup,” he added.
When Santa Fe High did get the ball into the front court, the offense stalled as Lady Rams wing Abree Aldaz blanketed Salazar and allowed just one second-half bucket the rest of the game.
Compounding the offensive issues is the subpar play of sophomore point guard Heaven Martinez. Morris said she is in a funk, and that takes away a key offensive weapon to counter defenses geared to stopping Salazar.
The Demonettes tried to get the ball into junior post Amber Lucero, but either the passes were off target or Lucero couldn’t get a good look with the congestion in the paint.
“We were trying everything we could to get us some points down there,” Morris said. “I mean, 17 points is not us.”
Morris, though, feels a week’s worth of practices and film study can fix those issues.
Santa Fe High will get a chance to show what it can do in the opening round of the Village of Los Lunas Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27, when another pressing team, the Gallup Lady Bengals, take on the Demonettes.
“We’re getting there,” Morris said. “This was a true test for us. They’re the No. 5 team in the state, and that’s the toughest team we’ve faced.”