The Gateway Christian boys basketball team shook off a major upset bid by visiting Mescalero as they came back from ten down with two minutes to go to force overtime and eventually prevail 66-62. The Warriors got a big game from Jaydon Stephens throughout the game and some major hoops down the stretch from Riley Arnold off the bench to gain the win and move to 13-4 on the season.
The question of which Mescalero team would show up – the one that lost by two to the Warriors on the opener or the one that got pummeled by 40 to the Warriors in the finals of their own tourney – was answered early in the game as the Chiefs played good physical defense and shot extremely well from the outside to nearly pull off the shocker.
“They really came to play tonight,” stated a relieved coach Dan Smith. “They were making shots right off the bat and they looked really good. I don’t believe they are a 17th-ranked team. They are a solid team and they seem to be getting better. Our boys just continued to fight and never gave up.”
The Warriors held an early 4-1 lead in the opening quarter which was dominated by the defenses. The Chiefs would not hit their first bucket until the 3:20 mark and then they got hot. The visitors (9-7) would finish the quarter on an 11-0 run that would see them hit three long range bombs to go up at the break 12-4.
The second quarter was a physical, fast-paced one that saw each team score 21 points. The Warriors would get as close as five points twice, but could never put together any sustained stops to get the lead.
Stephens would do his best to keep his squad in the game as he for 13 in the quarter and came up with numerous steals on the defensive end. Wes Tipton would score only two buckets, but would come up with 8 first-half blocks to keep the Chiefs honest in the paint.
“(Stephens) has a motor that just won’t quit,” stated Smith of the play of his junior guard. “It just doesn’t turn off. He makes plays and that’s the energy that he brings to the court.”
With Jamal Rocha hitting four treys, the Chiefs led 33-25 at the half.
In the third, Aloysius Comanche would get back to back hoops to stretch their lead to 40-27 over the Warriors. Gateway would close the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 42-36 heading into the final frame. Stephens and Alonzo Grajeda would get two buckets apiece in the run.
Grajeda would steal the initial in-bounds pass and score to make it 42-38, but then the Warriors would not score again until the 4:20 mark. By that time, the Chiefs would lead 46-38. Freshman George Rocha would lead the Chiefs to a 52-42 lead with a couple of minutes to play with his drives to the baskets and his poise at the free throw line. That’s when the Warriors made one last push – led by Riley Arnold. Arnold would come off the bench and hit three key buckets in the paint to bring the hosts back to within one point. His third bucket came with 29 seconds remaining and trimmed the lead to 53-52. Following a Chief freebie, Stephens would rattle in the tying bucket with 13 seconds to go and the teams were tied 54-all heading to overtime.
“We’ve always lived by the adage that it’s all about us – next man up to do his job,” said Smith. “Riley (Arnold) came in and just did his job and did exactly what we asked him to do. He played great.”
The overtime was an exciting affair, but the Warriors managed to make their free throws and survive to long Chief three-pointers to win 66-62. Two final Grajeda freebies sealed the win for the Warriors.
Coach Smith is hoping the big win will help be a springboard for his team as they wrap up the non-district part of their schedule. “This win will hopefully continue the momentum we have been carrying all season long.”
Stephens would finish with 27 points to lead the Warriors, who host Lake Arthur Friday night.
Girls: Mescalero 63, Gateway 18
The 2nd-ranked Chiefs ran off to an early lead and never looked back in a sound 63-18 win over the Gateway Christian Lady Warriors. Mescalero would get a big game from post-Katelyn Yuzos, their lone senior, in getting the win. Yuzos would finish with 25 points as the Chiefs climbed to 16-1 while the hosts would fall to 4-11.
Coach Holly Tipton saw numerous positives despite the lop-sided score. “The girls worked hard. Megyn (Balok) usually has a better night, but my two seniors – Balok and Emily Turner – are still doing real well. The freshmen are getting better every game.”
The Chiefs used an effective half-court trap in the opening quarter as they would race out to a 21-2 advantage. The Warriors could only manage a lone bucket from Hannah Martin – one of three starting freshmen for Gateway.
The lead would climb to 35-7 at the half as the Chiefs used their speed and experience to stretch the lead. Taylor Higgins would hit two buckets – one from long range – in the quarter for the Warriors.
The Chiefs would open the third quarter on a 14-0 run to enact a running clock as the lead would balloon to 49-7. Senior Emily Turner would receive from fellow senior Megyn Balok to stop the run with 1:03 to go. Balok would hit two late buckets to make it 51-13 heading into the final quarter. “Emily had 8 blocks so she did really well against that post,” said Tipton. “She is really starting to come to play. It hurts when she is not with us. She’s doing good.
A quick final frame saw Balok and Higgins get baskets as the Chiefs cruised to the 63-18 win.