For the first three quarters of its rivalry matchup against Mancos High School on Jan. 28, the Dolores High School girls basketball team found itself trailing on the scoreboard and searching for answers.
A late surge by the Lady Bears’ offense and lockdown defense throughout the fourth quarter turned the tide, however, as Dolores outscored Mancos 12-2 in the fourth quarter and walked away with a 29-21 victory.
Dolores was led offensively by senior McKenzie Howerton, who scored a game-high 11 points. Samantha Castillo also played a starring role for the Lady Bears, as the junior scored seven points and pulled down numerous rebounds on both ends of the floor.
“I liked how (our players) finally executed (the offense) in the second half,” Dolores head coach Tiffany Hill said. “They went to the basket and limited turnovers and that really helped us on offense. Our defense kept us in the game when our offense started slow.”
While the final result of the back-and-forth contest was a positive one for the Lady Bears, the team’s performance throughout the first quarter was anything but seamless, as Mancos dominated the action on both ends of the floor.
Among the players who significantly affected the Lady Jays’ hot start was senior Isis Jaime, who banked in a long jump shot on her team’s first offensive possession and hit two 3-point field goals later in the first quarter to help Mancos pull ahead 11-7 after eight minutes of play.
Scoring slowed down for both teams during the second quarter, as Mancos implemented a tough man-to-man defense and Dolores used a 2-3 defense to flummox opposing offensive players and limit quality shot attempts.
With Mancos leading 15-13 at the beginning of the third quarter, the defensive battle between the two San Juan Basin League rivals continued, and offensive highlights remained in short supply on both sides of the court.
Perhaps the biggest offensive moment of the second half for the Lady Jays came late in the third quarter when Hale took one dribble and confidently pulled up before draining a long 3-pointer from the left wing to give her team a 19-16 lead.
From then on, it was all Dolores, however, as the Lady Bears closed the game on an 11-0 run that included three free throws from Howerton, three points from sophomore Ashaunee Begay and numerous tough rebounds by sophomore Erin Brown, senior Brenn Jeter and Castillo.
“I think (rebounding) is just a matter of putting a body on someone and going up strong,” Castillo said. “Rebounding is all about having confidence that you can bring it down and protect the ball.”
The crowd also played a role in lifting the Lady Bears to victory as home fans cheered loudly throughout the final eight minutes of the contest and Dolores players high-fived and fed off their fans’ energy.
“For me personally, (the crowd noise) makes me more hyped for the game and more into the game,” Castillo said. “I like the pressure.”
Now, 3-8 overall and 1-4 in the San Juan Basin League, Dolores will look to pick up its second league win of the season when it takes its home floor against Nucla High School on Jan. 31.
Mancos, which is currently 0-13 on the season, and 0-5 in the SJBL, will play its next game on the road against Ridgway High School on Feb. 4.
“We need to get better at executing our offense and we need to get more comfortable with the ball in our hands,” Hill said.