ALBUQUERQUE — For the Texico Lady Wolverines, it was the agony of a rare state championship game defeat.
For Navajo Pine? Mission accomplished.
With top-seeded Texico seeking its fourth title in five years and seventh in the last 12, Navajo Pine overcame an early 11-2 deficit, outscoring the Lady Wolverines from there 32-11 until the final two minutes of the third quarter, and hanging on for a 45-41 victory in the Class 2A state title matchup on Friday at The Pit.
The sixth-seeded Lady Warriors (25-6), who lost to Texico in last year’s finals, posted the program’s first state title behind 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from sophomore guard Demetria Clichee and a pesky defense that forced 20 turnovers.
“It means a lot to our small community,” said coach Aretha Mariano, a Navajo Pine graduate and a Lady Warriors assistant before taking over the program this season. “This was our goal. We never said it — we just kept quiet about it.
“It feels good. It feels like we’ve done something no one else (at the school) has done.”
Only three players scored for Texico (27-3), which struggled against a box-and-one defense featuring senior guard Cinandre Dolfin shadowing Lady Wolverines junior Jaylyn Cooper. Sophomore post Shaylee Anderson scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, junior guard Jordyn Cooper had 15 points and seven boards and senior forward Delanie Crist added nine points.
Jaylyn Cooper managed only one shot attempt in the game, although she did have seven rebounds and five assists.
“C.J. (Dolfin) picked her up,” Mariano said. “We know she’s a good player, but she was pretty quiet today. She’s the go-to person for their team.”
Texico coach Keith Durham surmised it was because Jaylyn Cooper had a good game in last year’s final.
“I’m going to give Navajo Pine a lot of credit,” he said. “They did an excellent job of running their offense, and they bothered us defensively; they’re like little gnats out there.”
Texico appeared to be in command early, but all that changed once the Lady Warriors finally started finding the range.
“We couldn’t give up that early in the game,” 6-foot senior center Chelsea Yazzie said of the early deficit. “We just believe in ourselves.”
Dolfin, who had three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, hit a trey in the final minute to pull Navajo Pine to 11-7 at the quarter.
Crist’s rebound basket made it 13-10, but Kyleigh Thompson tied it with a 3, then put the Lady Warriors ahead for good with a driving basket.
Thompson scored late in the third quarter to make it 34-22, but the Lady Wolverines ran off the first seven points of the final period to pull to 34-31. They got within 43-41 on Jordyn Cooper’s 3-pointer with 56 seconds left, but a free throw each by Chelsea Yazzie and Dolphin iced it.
“We’re going to work hard all year,” said Anderson, who shot 8-for-14 from the floor. “We’re going to try to come back.”