Serving the High Plains

Lady Rattlers take third at Invitational

The Tucumcari girls basketball team began its season by capturing third place at the Santa Rosa Invitational tournament with a resounding 63-20 win Saturday over Cloudcroft.

Alexus Lafferty scored 25 points to lead the Lady Rattlers (2-1), while teammate Caylee Benavidez scored 19. July Lafferty added 10 points.

Alexus Lafferty and Benavidez each were named to the all-tournament team.

The Lady Rattlers’ only loss was to eventual tournament champion Fort Sumner (3-0), which defeated host Santa Rosa 44-37 in the title game Saturday.

Tucumcari led 26-11 at halftime and 50-15 after three quarters against Cloudcroft (1-2).

“Overall for the tournament, I was really excited to see the girls work hard and together,” Tucumcari coach Patrick Benavidez said. “We handled full-court pressure well and limited easy baskets for the other teams.

“I was concerned going in about conditioning, but with the depth at every position, we were able to keep fresh legs in the game.”

Fort Sumner 40, Tucumcari 35

The Lady Rattlers overcame an early 9-0 deficit and had a chance their chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter before falling 40-35 to the Vixens in a hard-fought tournament semifinal Friday.

Benavidez scored 14 points to lead Tucumcari, and Alexus Lafferty added seven. Haisley Huffman added six points.

“My girls played some great team defense against a good offensive Fort Sumner team who scored 64 points on Thursday,” coach Benavidez said. “It was good to be in a close game this early in the season to be able to get the experience and work on situational strategies.”

After spotting the Vixens a 9-0 lead early, the Lady Rattlers rallied to tie it at 16 by halftime.

“We had some missed opportunities within the last minute to tie the game and also take the lead,” Benavidez said. “Overall, it was a great team effort.”

Tucumcari 48, Mora 41

The Lady Rattlers opened the Santa Rosa tournament Thursday by taking a 20-point lead by the third quarter and fending off a late charge by the Rangers during a 48-41 season-opening win.

Alexus Lafferty scored 18 points to lead Tucumcari, and Benavidez added 17.

Tucumcari took a double-digit lead in the first period and fattened the advantage to 43-20 by the end of the third quarter.

“We played great defense through the first three quarters, with Haisley Huffman and July Lafferty leading the way with great energy defensively and rebounding to created some fastbreak points,” coach Benavidez said.

Mora, which finished the week 1-3, went on a 21-5 run in the final period to make it interesting.

“We had a rough fourth quarter with some missed layups and short-range shots opportunities, which resulted in Mora pushing the ball up the court to get them back into the game,” he said. “We got fatigued in the fourth quarter and had our point guard go down for most of it with leg cramps.

“I am proud of our girls for hanging in there and getting the first win of the year and getting the nerves of the first game behind us.”