Home Sports Local Sports Lady Rockets persevere; down Bulldogs in overtime

Lady Rockets persevere; down Bulldogs in overtime

Goddard High School junior Bailey Beene takes the ball on a fast break down the court against Artesia Friday at Ground Zero. (Steve Notz Photo)

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The Goddard Lady Rockets overcame a plethora of turnovers to come back and defeat district-leading Artesia 60-49 in overtime inside a packed, noisy Ground Zero. The Rockets, who trailed for the majority of the game, overcame a late six point deficit to get the victory and tack on their initial district win.

The Lady Dogs got a big game from post Gracie Puentes who finished with 20 tough points – almost all from the paint but ran out of gas in the overtime session and fell to 13-10 on the season but remain in the district lead at 2-1.

“We took care of the boards and we made our free throws,” is how a happy coach Jared Neighbors explained how his team won despite the turnovers. “The three things we really focus on is making free throws, getting rebounds, and not turning over the ball, and we obviously didn’t do the turnover part real well. We made it a lot harder on ourselves, but we can fix that.”

He continued, “the kids stepped up. Our motto right now is do whatever it takes. We expect some people to score, some people to rebound, but now it’s just do what it takes, and some kids stepped up and I’m just so proud of them for their resiliency. We could have given up so many times especially with the turnovers at horrible times but they kept their composure and just stayed positive with each other and in our huddle and we reaped the benefit of it.”

The Rockets and Bulldogs played on even terms in the opening quarter as both teams were content to stay in their zone defenses and employ the half-court trap. The Rockets led only twice in the opening frame – after two freebies from senior Allie French at the 5:08 mark and at the end of the quarter when Bailey Beene hit a layup with :28 remaining. The basket gave the Rockets an 11-10 edge after one.

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The Rockets would get two free throws from Camarynn Villalpando to give the Rockets a 13-12 lead with only about 45 seconds gone in the quarter. It would be the last time the Rockets led until late in the fourth as Artesia kept the hosts at bay for a good portion of the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

Villalpanodo did a good job of keeping the Rockets in the game as she also went coast-to-coast on a layup to get an 18-18 tie and then later drove the lane to cut a Bulldog lead to 21-20.

The Rockets, at this time, had abandoned the outside shot and gone strictly to the hole for most of their offense. It wasn’t until Cielo Salinas hit a three with 2:14 to go that the Rockets hit a shot from outside the paint. That shot tied it at 23-all, but the Bulldogs answered with a trey from Kyrah Gonzales and a late free throw from Puentes to give the visitors a 27-23 lead.

The third quarter was similar to the second in that the Rockets simply turned the ball over time after time. The Bulldogs’ defense had a little to do with a lot of the turnovers as the Rockets’ first second half bucket wouldn’t come until the 3:54 mark when Grace Shea hit a short jumper in the paint to cut the Bulldogs lead to 32-26.

The Rockets managed only one more hoop – from senior Eden Wiggins – as they trailed 36-28 heading into the final frame.

The Bulldogs would maintain that edge throughout the first five minutes of the final quarter. Villalpondo would hit three layups to start the comeback as her third would cut the lead to 40-38 at the 2:50 mark. French, who had numerous rebounds, followed with an offensive board to get the bucket and foul shot to give the Rockets their first lead since early in the second. French’s bucket not only ignited her teammates but got the already raucous crowd into the game even more.

“She did phenomenal,” stated Neighbors of French’s play. “Her main thing is defense and rebounds. But when she had open looks down low, she finished. She made her free throws. That’s what I’m talking about – roles. She accepted her role and when we give her the ball down there, it’s great to see her finish around the rim.”

The Bulldogs would quickly retake the lead, but Beene would hit a runner with 1:12 to play to make it 44-43 Bulldogs and then, following another Puentes hoop, hit a huge three right in front of her bench to tie it up at 46-all with :36 seconds to go.

Following back-to-back turnovers, the Bulldogs had a chance for the win but did not get a good shot attempt and the game went to overtime.

The Rockets slowly took control in the extra session to win going away. A basket by Wiggins gave the Rockets a 51-49 lead that they would not relinquish. With the Bulldogs’ shooting gone cold, they started to press and foul and the Rockets calmly went 6-for-7 at the line down the stretch to wrap up the 60-49 win.

“They covered out on us well and I thought we attacked good,” said Neighbors. “In Romans 5, it says Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and with character, hope. It was kind of rough those last two games (district losses to Roswell and Lovington) but we stuck with it and we still have hope now. We gave ourselves some hope with this win.”

Villalpando would finish with 20 points to lead the Rockets while French chipped in 13.

The Rockets (13-10) next game is a rematch with the Roswell Coyotes on Friday evening.

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