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Beene shines on the big stage

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Goddard senior Bailey Beene shoots over a Lovington defender during a district playoff game against Lovington Feb. 26 at Ground Zero. (Steve Notz File Photo)

Playing in The Pit during high school basketball playoffs is like going to Madison Square if you’re a professional athlete. For Goddard’s Bailey Beene, The Pit has been her sweetest and most heartbreaking memory of her athletic career.

The Pit is also where she has shined the brightest under the most duress of circumstances and the toughest of competitions. It is on the stage against the best, biggest and brightest stars in New Mexico basketball that she has stood toe-to-toe with them and shined, because of her ability to almost single-handily snatch victory from Gallup in a 72-60 loss.

Beene’s 36-point performance was not lost on the coaches from around the state.  On that platform, Beene played her best basketball and kept her team in the game, giving them a chance to win at the end.

In 2017 as a sophomore, Beene, along with a veteran cast of players, knocked off the No. 1 seeded Roswell Lady Coyotes with Gatorade Player of the Year in Jaedyn De La Cerda for the second time to advance to the championship game with a 54-52 win.

In the championship game, she was able to play solid defense and rebound as she helped win the Lady Rockets their first Blue Trophy with a come-from-behind win as they defeated Los Lunas, 35-30.

In that game, Beene wasn’t the star of the team but a valuable contributor and was the sixth person and the first person off the bench. In the offseason of her junior year, she worked hard on her ball-handling and outside shot. With Goddard losing so many seniors, she knew that she would have to take on more of a scoring role and look for her shot, as well as distribute the ball to the open shooter.  As a four-year starter, Beene saw a difference in her role. Coach Neighbors brought her along slowly and indoctrinated her into a team-first mentality. She started as a freshman and as a sophomore her job was to rebound.

“Coach Neighbors told me I would eventually be a point guard,” Beene said. “I knew that I would have to work even harder in the offseason to make that transition from post position to point guard my junior year. I knew I would have to score more for my team. I gained more confidence in my junior year and it built upon my senior season.”

Because Beene learned how to handle the pressure of other teams keying on her to stop her — it allowed her to play her game and find her spots to get her shots.

Beene is the only Goddard player to score 1,100 points, lead the Lady Rockets in scoring and to be selected All-District, All-State. She was selected as the New Mexico Prep 4-4A Player of the Year and was chosen to play in the North-South All-Star game while winning a Blue Trophy. Beene has shown what a tireless work ethic can do as she has improved her game every year. When she graduates, she will be the last remaining player from the championship team.

“Making All-State is definitely one of my highest achievements, and a goal I set,” Beene said. “This is second to winning state my sophomore year. Making first-team All-State was my greatest achievement as an individual and winning state was the greatest achievement I made with my team.”

In her senior year, she went from having other teams not knowing her name to them having to game plan for her and try to stop her on the offensive end of the floor. Beene still leads the team in scoring and mentors her younger teammates showing them the Goddard tradition.

Beene was able to inspire her teammates with her LeBron James-like blocks as she would hustle down the court and block an opponent’s shot from behind to start a fast break. She was also able to take an outlet pass from Lacie Schooley and drive down the court and as an oncoming defender, was about to impede her way to the basket, dribble the ball behind her back and pull up for a three-pointer or dish to a wide-open teammate for an easy basket.

Beene was at her best as the Lady Rockets made their way into district play and down the stretch, leading her team to upset the No. 6 seed Silver Colts with a 42-37 victory on the road in the first round of the playoffs. In that game, she provided leadership and helped freshman Alexis Sandoval score 12 points as she scored nine.

In a playoff game that would end Beene’s playing career and be her toughest loss was a 72-60 loss to the Gallup Bengals.

“Gallup keyed on Beene all game,” Goddard coach Jared Neighbors said after the game. “You saw the leadership she has shown, scoring 36 points — the highest since she has been in high school. It’s a testament to her that she is going out on a high note. Bailey’s unselfishness is the key to our success. There are no words to describe Bailey Beene, she is going to be missed.”

Beene shined so brightly on the big stage of The Pit and during the season, she is the only basketball player, male or female, to be named to the All-State team from Chaves County this year.

Neighbors feels like Beene has been a big part of the Goddard girl’s basketball program the last four years, almost the whole time he’s been at Goddard. Neighbors noticed Beene’s humility and that she never thought she knew more than anyone or was better than anyone. Neighbors felt like Beene was part of a team and she did what needed to be done. She played in the post her first two years and point guard the last two. For Neighbors, that showed her ability, but also her willingness to be coachable and willing to do what needs to be done for the betterment of the team.

“Without coach Neighbors,” Beene said, “I probably wouldn’t be getting the recognition I am getting today. He has always pushed me to be the best play on the court and I’m going to miss being a part of his program.”

Beene credits her parents for instilling toughness in her and to compete at 110% in everything she has done throughout her life. She also credits playing against her rough and tough brothers — Carter and Hunter Beene — while growing up.

Neighbors recalls Beene’s last performance at The Pit. In the game against Gallup where she torched them for a career-high 36 points, she showed why she was New Mexico Preps 4A Player of the Year. In that game, Gallup had no answer for her and they fouled her to stop her. Neighbors feels like the only way Gallup could have stopped her was to foul her. Gallup fouled Beene 17 times and she could have been on the free throw line another 10 times.

Neighbors remembers having devotions with his team, and Beene has been through a lot of them. Neighbors feels like she is the epitome of the verse that speaks about how all runners run a race, but only one gets the prize. He feels like Beene runs in such a way as to get the prize.

“Goddard basketball has been a huge part of my life over the past four years,” Beene said. “Being a part of the program has made me a more strong, responsible and hardworking young woman. Being in this program has helped me prepare for the next steps in my life. I will miss basketball.”

Beene has signed for a full-ride scholarship to continue her athletic career in track and field for New Mexico State University. She will throw the javelin and major in nursing.

“We know that there are no guarantees in sports or life,” Neighbors stated, “but we want to always play our best, be our best, and treat others with our best. Bailey does that every day of her life.”