HAGERMAN – The Hagerman Lady Bobcat basketball team gutted out a tough, foul-filled game over a game Jal Panther team 52-39 Wednesday in Hagerman. The Bobcats became the first local Chaves County team to officially reach the district tournament finals as they now travel to #7-ranked Tatum on Friday night for the district 4-2A crown.
The Panthers, winners of the quarterfinals over Gateway Christian on Monday, played a tough brand of basketball, but ultimately could not keep up with the faster Bobcats in falling to the hosts for the fourth time this season.
“We kind of reverted back to some of the old things that we did at the beginning of the season,” stated coach Candace Pollard. “We had gotten so much better last week when we played Jal (a 57-24 win). It was just so much (better). We played as a team. We played four full quarters. Tonight, we just dug ourselves into a hole and had to work our way out of it.”
The Bobcats started out sluggishly as they had trouble hitting from the outside or inside as the rims were very unkind to the host squad. Leandra Tarango would bust a three with a little under four minutes to go to tie the game at 5-all and then with a little under three to go, Paige Hoppes would get a nice pass from Stephanie Razo to get the layup and a 7-6 lead. The Bobcats would never trail again.
Razo would continue to lead the Bobcat offense, but it was her defense that really impressed coach Pollard as she was tasked with guarding Jal’s best player, Jocelyn Hernandez, most of the night. Hernandez, who finished with 18 points, had the green light to shoot at any time…and often did.
“Stephanie (Razo) would run through a brick wall for me,” stated Pollard. “As a coach, that’s what you want. I told her what to do before the game and she does it 110%. She may have an off-shooting night, but, defensively, she does exactly what I want her to do and that’s what is most important to me.”
The Bobcats would stretch a slim 10-8 first quarter lead into a quick 18-8 lead at the beginning of the second quarter as freshman Yamile Ortiz and Bethany Barela would nail long threes.
The Panthers would scratch back into the game as Hernandez continued to drive and Rylee Crawford would get jumpers to fall. Coincidentally, those two Panther players would be the only two to score in the first half for Jal.
Tarango would get the last basket and the last free throw for the Bobcats as they led 21-17 at the break.
Tarango would get the hosts going in the second half as she would bookend a three with a pair of freebies as the Cats would lead 26-21. The game would stay relatively close throughout as the Bobcats would miss easy chances and the visitors would start to get some production from other players.
Pollard had high praise for her bench players as Tarango, Joana Soto, and Ortiz all came up big. “My starting five didn’t come out the way I wanted them to, so my bench really stepped up tonight.”
Hernandez would make her only hoop late for the Panthers to cut the lead to only 34-30, but the hosts would get three free throws from Barela, Joana Soto, and Razo to make it 37-30 heading into the final frame.
The final quarter was filled with fouls and free-throw attempts as both teams were in the bonus at the beginning of the quarter.
With the score 37-33, the Bobcats got free throws from Barela (again), Razo (again) and a bucket from Ortiz to get the lead to double digits at 44-33 and some much-needed breathing room for the host team.
Hernandez would score a couple of late buckets for the Panthers and Barela would nail a running three late to make it 52-39 at the final hoop.
Tarango would lead the Bobcats offensively with 13 points. Barela would chip in with 11.