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Lady Rattlers deny Clayton's bid as spoilers

The Tucumcari girls basketball team held Clayton scoreless the last five minutes during a 44-33 victory Thursday, denying the Yellowjackets' bid to be spoilers of the Lady Rattlers' Homecoming.

The Lady Rattlers (14-3) trailed early in the fourth quarter but scored 12 unanswered points to secure the win over the Yellowjackets (11-6), ranked fourth in Class 2A by

Tucumcari was ranked sixth in Class 3A by MaxPreps going into the game.

Kyla Lopez, who scored a game-high 15 points, tallied six during the scoring run. Caylee Benavidez, totaling 11 points, added four during the rally.

"We picked up the heat a bit on defense and finally hit some shots," Tucumcari coach Patrick Benavidez said.

The Lady Rattlers had an 8-3 lead after the first quarter and led 14-6 in the second before Clayton scored nine unanswered points. Tucumcari guard July Lafferty scored on a fastbreak just before intermission, but her team led just 18-17.

Coach Benavidez, noting the huge crowd for Homecoming in Rattler Gymnasium, said his team was a bit too amped up.

"We were forcing the ball inside, getting impatient," he said. "That's understandable for a game like this. We knew we were the better team. We just had to come out to play, settle down, relax and run our offense like we did in the fourth quarter."

Haisley Huffman, announced as Homecoming queen after the game, gave the Lady Rattlers a needed spark when she scored twice in the third period after steals to give her team a 27-23 lead.

Clayton led 33-32 early in the fourth quarter after Angelina Herrera scored seven of her team-high 13 points.

After a Caylee Benavidez inside bucket, Lopez tallied three consecutive field goals to give the Lady Rattlers a 40-33 lead with 3:10 left.

Herrera subsequently missed two free throws, enabling Tucumcari to hold the ball and run more than a minute off the clock.

Benavidez scored another inside basket with 1:30 left for a 42-33 lead, and Lafferty converted two free throws 35 seconds left to close the scoring.

Clayton next season will be part of Tucumcari's district, as THS will drop from Class 3A to Class 2A as part of the New Mexico Activities Association's two-year realignment plan.

Tucumcari 56, Bosque 28

The Lady Rattlers jumped to a 21-3 first-quarter lead and cruised to a 56-28 non-district victory at Bosque on Saturday.

Tucumcari's scoring pace slowed a bit after that, but it still outpointed the Lady Bobcats in each period.

Caylee Benavidez led the Lady Rattlers with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Lafferty added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Lopez totaled 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine steals. Kirksey Smith added five points and six rebounds.

"The girls played well defensively and did a good job working the ball around the offensive side," coach Benavidez said.

Tucumcari improved to 15-3 overall. Bosque fell to 4-10.

Tucumcari 67, Santa Rosa 27

The Lady Rattlers took a 20-point lead by halftime en route to a 67-27 non-district victory on Jan. 23 over host Santa Rosa.

Tucumcari led 17-8 after the first quarter and 37-17 at intermission.

Lafferty scored 22 points to lead the Lady Rattlers. Caylee Benavidez added 18 and Lopez 17.

Santa Rosa fell to 2-13.

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