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Lady Rockets prepared for next challenge

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The Goddard Lady Rocket basketball team stands in front of the team bus prior to leaving for Albuquerque and the state tournament Monday. (Steve Notz Photo)

ALBUQUERQUE — The 2018-19 season was much like a roller coaster ride for the (16-12) Goddard Lady Rockets. They started the season with two straight wins, followed by three consecutive losses, followed by a five-game winning streak. A few weeks later they opened the district season with two straight wins, then came a three-game district skid, and the girls didn’t even advance to the district tournament final.

The bus carrying the Goddard Lady Rocket basketball team to Albuquerque awaits departure at Goddard High School Monday. (Steve Notz Photo)

Head coach Jared Neighbors even admitted it was a topsy-turvy type of year. “It was, but the girls stepped up when they had to,” said Neighbors. Case in point, Friday night against Silver in the first round of the girls 4A playoffs.

The Lady Colts had everything going for them, a 22-4 record, a 13-game winning streak — their 6’3 guard Katelynn Limardo, was being looked at by college scouts in the stands, and to put icing on the cake, the Lady Colts were playing at home where they hadn’t lost all season.

“We were coming off that disappointing loss in the district tournament, it gave us a week off to get refocused and prepare for Silver. We had a great game plan going in,” Neighbors said. And the Lady Rockets executed that game plan to near perfection, first by containing Limardo. She was scoring about 18 points a game, and the Goddard defense held her to a season-low 11 points.

Goddard also had a well-balanced offensive attack. Alexis Sandoval finished with 11 points, Bailey Beene scored nine points, Tanya Ueland tallied seven and the two Lady Rockets posts, Lacie Schooley and Lana Morley, contributed four points each.

It was the perfect formula for the perfect upset, 42-37 over Silver.

The Lady Rockets will need another performance like that when they face the 22-8 Gallup Lady Tigers at 3 p.m. today at Dreamstyle Arena (The Pit).

Gallup, though, is similar to Silver — most of their 22 wins were to sub-500 teams. “They are an up-and-down team. When they’re on they can light up the board,” said Neighbors. However, Gallup also is a streaky shooting team. Three times this season, Gallup has scored under 30 points.

“We’re going to trust our defense, and hold them to a low-scoring game,” Neighbors predicts. The Lady Rockets start their trek to the Blue Trophy today, and should they get to the title game on Saturday, it will be because they were battle-tested throughout the year. “We played a tough non-conference schedule and played in one of the toughest districts in the state,” Neighbors said.

As for how to beat Gallup? “We’ll have to handle Gallup’s pressing game, they execute that very well, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen all year,” said Neighbors. Navigating through tough moments in a playoff game at The Pit, with so much on the line, requires a veteran like Goddard’s Bailey Beene, who is the only member of this year’s team that was on the 2017 squad that won it all.

In an earlier interview with Beene this year, the soft-spoken senior said it all. “We trust our coach, we trust one another. It’s been our goal all year to come here (to The Pit) and win it all. There is no other feeling like being a state champion.”