Tularosa nips Texico for girls 2A crown
CNJ SPORTS WRITER
ALBUQUERQUE — When you get to a state championship game, any number of things can be decisive.
Texico went back-and-forth with Tularosa for much of Friday’s Class 2A girls final at The Pit, but sophomore guard Shania Gilliland — 1-for-9 from the field to that point — launched a tie-breaking 3-pointer from the left wing that found nothing but net with just over a minute left, giving the second-seeded Lady Wildcats a 49-46 victory over top-seeded Texico.
Sophomore Brianna Reyna’s desperation 3 from on top bounced off the rim in the final seconds for the Lady Wolverines (20-8).
link Joshua Lucero: PNT correspondent
Texico's Chayanne Scarborough gets a shot past Shiprock's Aviana Garcia in the second half of the Texico Wolverines NMAA 2A state championship final against the Tularosa Wildcats Friday evening at The Pit in Albuquerque.
Tularosa coach Joe Estrada said he’s tried to build a state-caliber program in his three years at the school, and it culminated in a title.
“These girls have worked hard all season,” he said. “I knew if we kept it close, we’d have a great shot at winning.”
Junior guard Kyanne Kowatch scored 21 points for the Lady Wildcats (25-4), while sophomore guard Avianna Garcia added 10.
The Lady Wolverines were led by Reyna, who posted a monster game with 25 points and 20 rebounds only to come up short. Texico outrebounded Tularosa 53-27.
“She’s been outstanding all year, taking the lead for a team as young as we are,” Lady Wolverines coach Richard Luscombe said. “That’s a big responsibility (for a sophomore), and I think she handled it well.”
Reyna said she felt good about her final shot, coming in traffic from out front from about 30 feet.
“I thought I had a chance,” Reyna said of the final shot. “It just didn’t fall. It wasn’t meant to be.”
The teams went back-and-forth most of the game. Texico led 33-29 midway through the third quarter, but the Lady Wildcats opened a 44-38 lead when Kowatch converted a driving shot with 5:43 to go.
Texico pulled even when Reyna found freshman post Jasmine Gannon for a layup, then converted two free throws — Reyna was 9-for-9 from the line for the game — before senior guard Shelby Vannatta put back a loose ball with 2:28 to go.
Gilliland’s 3-pointer from the left wing proved to be decisive.
“That’s a big play,” Luscombe said. “Give Tularosa credit. They did what they needed to do to give themselves a chance.”
Gilliland said the shot wasn’t by design.
“I knew I hadn’t been making them,” she said. “It wasn’t really a play. It just happened.”
Kowatch made 1-of-2 free throws with 40 seconds left, but Vannatta cut it to 48-46 with two free throws at the 34-second mark. Kowatch then dribbled down the clock before drawing Vannatta’s fifth foul with 12.8 seconds to play.
She only converted one free throw, however, giving Texico a final chance.