Tucumcari girls end season
March 18, 2020
Depleted by injuries, the ninth-seeded Tucumcari girls basketball team reached the end of the line of the Class 3A quarterfinals during a 67-55 loss March 10 to top-seeded and eventual state champion Navajo Prep, despite senior Ashley Shipley’s heroic 38 points for the Lady Rattlers.
Tucumcari, which ended its season with a 19-11 record, fell behind 13-0 and 20-2 in the first half during the game at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, two days before the New Mexico Activities Association banned all fans and media from state-tournament games because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We started out very slow and turned the ball over a lot; in the first half we turned the ball over 17 times,” Tucumcari coach Gary Hittson said. “We didn’t shoot very well in the first half; we were 5-for-15 from the field.”
The Lady Rattlers cut the Eagles’ lead to 32-26 in the third quarter, but Navajo Prep responded with a 20-3 run to put the game out of reach. Tucumcari managed another rally before the final buzzer sounded.
Noting “we were unable to match Navajo Prep’s aggressiveness,” Hittson said: “In the fourth quarter, we came out and played; we got after them and outscored them 24-14. We knew coming into the game we were the underdog. The girls never gave up; they fought till the last horn.”
The Lady Rattlers had suffered the loss of senior center and No. 2 scorer Jasmine Jones, who injured a knee injury in the previous game, and senior power forward Aaliyah Brown, who was out for the season after a knee injury during district play.
“The injury bug hit us: We had shin splints, we had ankle injuries” in addition to the injuries to Jones and Brown, Hittson said. “We did have younger girls step up during the year.”
Shipley, an all-state guard who will play for Texas A&M-Commerce next season, made eight 3-pointers despite drawing double- and even triple-team coverage from the Eagles. She also went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line.
That impressed Navajo Prep coach Rainy Crisp.
“She’s a heck of a player,” Crisp told the Navajo Times. “Our girls tried their best to stay with her, and try and limit her opportunities, but she still had 38 points on us … that just proves how great of a player she is.
“She was going to get her points but we tried to not let anyone else get going. That was pretty much the talk in the locker room.”
Hailey Martin led Navajo Prep with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Navajo Prep defeated West Las Vegas and Tohatchi later in the week to finish with a state crown and a 28-2 record.
Tucumcari loses five seniors from this season’s squad: Shipley, Jones, Brown, Chantal Gardea and Lizet Castillo.
“They will be hard to replace,” Hittson said. “This senior group won four district championships, made it to the state tournament five years in a row. This group helped build the Lady Rattler basketball program; they laid the foundation for years to come. They will always be a part of Lady Rattler basketball.”