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Lady Bobcats off and running; new season, new team, new coach

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HAGERMAN – The Hagerman Lady Bobcat basketball team ushered in their 2017-2018 season playing in the J.P. Stone Invitational at Dora on Thursday evening. The Lady Cats dropped their opening game to the hosts 56-39 and followed that up with a 48-36 win over district nemesis Jal to move into Saturday’s consolation championship game against Quemado.

The Bobcats are playing a tough early slate in hopes of challenging Tatum for the district 4-2A crown. The Lady Cats are coming off of 7-18 campaign that finished their season on a sour note last year, with a loss to Gateway Christian in the opening round of the district tourney.

The Lady Cats are coached this year by First-year coach Candace Pollard who is being assisted by Jacob Olivas. Pollard, an Artesia graduate who played collegiately is very excited for the upcoming season. “(We) couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to have for our first year as coaches. They refuse to back down even when they’re tired. In practice and on the court they give me 110 percent the entire time and, as a coach, that’s all you could ask from a player.”

Those players did give the 110 percent in their season opener with 2A power Dora but fell to a more seasoned team 56-39. Sophomore Bethany Barela tossed in 15 points.

“We were a little tight and nervous,” stated Pollard. “Being a first-year head coach, not only in Hagerman but in my career, it was an adjustment for all of us. Not only were the girls adjusting to me in a game setting, but myself and my assistant coach really got to see them play a real game for the first time and it was exciting.”

She continued, “we did a lot of great things. This group of girls is senior loaded but we also have several underclassmen who aren’t afraid to get in there and work. We made some adjustment after the game to get better prepared for Jal.”

The preparations must have been spot on as the Lady Cats ran off to a 19-4 first quarter lead and never relinquished it. They had some offensive problems in the second quarter, but still maintained a 21-15 lead at the break, as they went on to a big 48-36 victory.

Yamile Ortiz and Stephanie Razo led the Cats with 7 points apiece, while Barela and Christy Bejarano chipped in with 6 each.

“I am extremely excited about the level of maturity and willingness to be coachable I have with this group of girls,” exclaimed Pollard. “Jal is a district opponent so it felt good to get that early win against them (the Panthers swept the Bobcats last year). It was for sure a great morale booster for these girls. Jal is a great team and I look forward to playing them again down the road.”

The Lady Cats first home game won’t be until Dec. 14 against 3A Eunice.