By Eric Butler: QCS
It was a long, long day for Tucumcari senior Brandi Arenas on Saturday. And, as it turned out, the night was a frustrating end to it all for Arenas and her Rattler teammates as Elida beat Tucumcari 41-32 in the finale of the four-team Route 66 girls basketball holiday tournament.
Arenas arrived to the Tucumcari gym late in the first half, after having made a trip to Juarez to be outfitted with braces.
“It was very tiring. We got backed up in traffic for like two hours in El Paso, so I was late,” said Arenas, whose family left for the trip at 2 a.m. on Saturday.
“After I got warmed up a little more, I started boxing out more — hustling a little more. They (her teeth) hurt, but in basketball you just play and forget about the surroundings.”
On Thursday, the Rattlers’ girls squad had knocked off Raton 42-38 as Arenas scored 26 points.
Against Mesa Vista on Friday, Tucumcari eased past the Trojans 58-32.
Like the host team, Elida also won its games against Raton and Mesa Vista. So, in essence, the Saturday night game between Tucumcari and Elida was the championship of the round-robin event.
The finale saw Elida (9-1), which was led by Jewlie Paiz’ 11, move out to leads as large as 12 points twice late in the first half. When Alicia Cross Smith put back in a Paiz miss with five seconds left in the second quarter, the Tigers had a 26-14 halftime advantage.
Then came the second half.
A mistake-riddled affair for both teams, the third and fourth quarters featured 3-for-22 shooting and 20 turnovers from the host Rattlers and, only slightly better, 5-for-22 field goal marksmanship and 19 turnovers for the Tigers.
For the game, the teams combined for 62 turnovers and, bringing the shooting woes to the charity stripe as well, hit only 23 of 61 free throw attempts.
“I’m hoarse (from yelling) after that one. We just kind of slopped it around and hung on for the win,” Elida coach Dan Howard said.
Arenas and fellow Rattlers’ senior Jamie Jones were themselves plagued by near misses. In the first four minutes of the third quarter, even as Elida was unable to score, Tucumcari was also errant on its first nine shots of the second half.
“If we could have hit free throws, or anything underneath the basket, we’d have been in the game,” Tucumcari coach Alicia Trujillo said.
As it was, however, the lead was whittled all the way down to only four points, at 32-28, after an 8-0 Tucumcari run in the final quarter. Cydnie Rich, who finished with five, scored three of her points — all via free throws — in that Rattlers’ streak.
Junior T’Shana Span led the Tucumcari effort on Saturday night with 11 points while Arenas and Jones added, respectively, seven and six points.
But Cross Smith’s free throw, with 4:40 remaining, ended the Rattlers’ run and her short bank shot, 37 seconds later, was Elida’s first made shot from the floor since Brittney Jasso’s layup at the end of the third quarter.
After the three tournament games, Tucumcari (4-3) came out with an above-.500 winning percentage for the year thus far.
“I thought we came a long way in a short time. We won four games in a row there, that’s something for us,” Trujillo said. “Three years ago, Elida beat us 77-to-7, my first year here — so we’ve come a long way. It’s been a rebuilding process, but I think we’ve become a competitive team.”
ROUTE 66 GIRLS HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
ELIDA 41, TUCUMCARI 32
Elida (9-1) Jewlie Paiz 11, Morgan McBride 7, Brittney Jasso 6, Nikki Jasso 6, Lindsey Ward 6, Alicia Cross Smith 5. Totals 15 8-27 41.
Tucumcari (4-3) T’Shana Span 11, Brandi Arenas 7, Jamie Jones 6, Cydnie Rich 5, Samantha Montano 3. Totals 8 15-34 32.
Elida 12 14 5 10 – 41
Tucumcari 9 5 6 12 – 32
3-point FG: E 3 (Jasso 2, Paiz); T 1 (Span). Fouls: E 27; T 25. Fouled Out: E Nikki Jasso, Ward; T Jones, Span.