The Peñasco Lady Panthers got it done in round one of the girls 2A state championship tournament at Jicarita Peñasco Gymnasium.
From the opening buzzer Friday (March 8), there was little room for doubt about who was moving on to the second round of the 2A state championship tournament. The Lady Panthers won by 38 points (77 points for Peñasco and 35 for McCurdy) and played much of the second half without their starters.
There wasn't a single upset in the first round of the girls' 2A state championship tournament; all of the teams ranked first through eighth are moving on to the quarterfinals.
The Lady Panthers dominated their game with the highest score and the largest point spread in the first round of the tournament. It was the last home game for seniors Bianca Contreras and Alaska Lopez, and they made it count.
The first quarter opened and closed with 3-pointers from Lopez. Three and a half minutes into the game, the Lady Panthers were already up by 10. Every Peñasco player reliably found the net when they put the ball up, and the girls played beautifully together.
The 2019 Lady Panthers can sense where their teammates are when they have the ball and where their teammates need them to be when they don't. They work brilliantly as a team. A typical example was near the end of the first quarter: within a few seconds, Peñasco scored two field goals. In the first, 15 sent a ground pass to Contreras who immediately fired it off to Carly Gonzales, who put it in for 2. After a steal, Contreras fired it off to 15, who found the net for another 2. There wasn't much the McCurdy defense could do.
The Lady Panthers were up by 7 within three minutes and ahead 18 points by the end of the first quarter.
At that point in the game, the gym was still fairly loud. Although Peñasco doesn't have high school cheerleaders, they do have a young spirit squad and a marching band, and when their band leads a cheer, the fans take up the charge, yelling loud and clear. The Peñasco marching band are better cheerleaders than most cheer squads, at least in soliciting noise from the crowd. A few bars of a familiar fight song and the fans were taking up the call.
It wasn't the Peñasco offense alone that kept them so far ahead. One second period example: McCurdy had stolen the basketball and was well on the way finishing the resulting breakaway with an easy lay-up when Contreras stole the ball on the McCurdy player's way up to the backboard. The Lady Panthers converted the steal into two points of their own.
By the end of the second quarter, the Peñasco bench was getting more playing time. The teams went into the locker rooms with a 32-point spread: 49 Peñasco, 17 McCurdy.
The pace of the second half was considerably slower. In the third and fourth quarters, Peñasco scored 20 points and 18, respectively, as compared to 29 and 21 in first and second periods, but it was plenty to keep their distance from the Lady Bobcats.
In less than one third-period minute, on three consecutive plays, the Lady Panthers got Lopez the ball outside the circle. Each time, Lopez put it in the net for 3, establishing a 44-point lead for Peñasco by the end of the third.
The Lady Panthers played much of the fourth period without more than one starter on the court at a time. The final score was 77-35, Peñasco.
After the game, their last home game of their high school careers, seniors Contreras and Lopez gave the Panther on the center of the court a farewell kiss. While the girls changed in the locker room, parents and fans waiting to congratulate them, including Lopez's father, Frank.
"I've been to every game her senior year, no matter where it is," the proud dad said.
Panthers vs. Yellowjackets
The Lady Panthers beat the seventh-seed Clayton Yellowjackets 55-49 at the Santa Ana Star Center on Tuesday (March 12). Clayton beat the tenth-seed, Alamo Navajo, 69-41 Friday (March 8). Carly Gonzales put up more than half the Lady Panther points, making 10 out of 15 field goal attempts for 20 points and a remarkable 10 of 10 free throws, for a total of 30.
Peñasco will go on to play the winner of Tuesday's 6:30 p.m. game between third-seed Pecos and sixth-seed Lordsburg.
The semifinal will be played Thursday (March 14) at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Ana Star Center, and the championship game will be Friday (March 15) at 5 p.m. at The Pit.
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