Can you say dynasty? The Santa Fe Indian School girls basketball team won its second AAA New Mexico state championship this weekend. The school is run by the All Indian Pueblo Council. As James Barron of the New Mexican reports, the second title might just be a glimpse of what is to come:
By James Barron, The New Mexican
ALBUQUERQUE — The present gave way to the future.
While Santa Fe Indian School has been served well by senior point guard Jenine Coriz during her five-year varsity career, the fourth quarter of the Lady Braves’ 43-22 Class AAA championship win over Shiprock served to glimpse what is ahead for the program.
There was sophomore Danielle Nelson finding sophomore Bridget Lee with a bounce pass for a layup to make it 35-20, Lady Braves, with 4 minutes, 41 seconds left.
A half-minute later, it was sophomore Makayela Holiday finding Lee on a backdoor cut for another bunny and a 37-20 margin.
It took another 1:03 for Nelson to dish to Coriz for another layup and a 19-point lead.
When the buzzer sounded and the Lady Braves (22-6) celebrated a second consecutive AAA title, the stat sheet said all that the rest of AAA needed to know.
This wasn’t the end of something for the Lady Braves.
It’s just a start.
The trio of posts combined for 22 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. There is a fourth sophomore, Justina Coriz, who is being groomed as the heir apparent to sister Jenine. She finished with five points, but she is a part of a six-pack of sophomores who will headline the Lady Braves’ drive for a three-peat.
SFIS head coach Cindy Roybal, though, wanted to focus on the now. She has eight months to prepare for the future.
“I just want them to enjoy the moment,” Roybal said. “Today, they stepped it up really, really big. We had to go inside. Normally, we’re an outside-in team, but today we had to be inside-out.”
And Roybal had all the confidence in the world in Nelson, Lee and Holiday.
“It means she trusts us now,” Nelson said.
“She just knows we can do better,” Lee added. “She knows we can take it strong to the hole.”
That’s what Lee and Nelson did best against the Lady Chieftains. Lee hit all four shots from the field and scored eight points, while Nelson was 4-for-5 and finished with 10.
Meanwhile, Holiday infused the Lady Braves with energy. She came in for Lee after she suffered a left thigh bruise after scoring off the glass with 5:40 left to make it 19-10, SFIS. Holiday immediately came up with a steal, and was rewarded with a layup on a no-look pass from Jenine Coriz. She added another steal before the quarter was through.
It was a part of a 13-4 spurt that turned a 15-10 halftime lead for SFIS into a 28-14 margin at 3:53. It was capped by another Jenine Coriz assist — to her sister for the easy basket. While the Corizes worked well together, Justina might find it hard to match Jenine’s quickness and ability to get off tough shots.
How big are those shoes to fill?
“I don’t know, they look the same to me,” Lee said as she looked down at her teammates’ feet.
Perhaps the best preparation for Justina Coriz and the sophomores was practice this season. The most competitive game the Lady Braves faced over the final three weeks was an intra-squad scrimmage just before the first round of the state tournament. It pitted the sophomore class against the rest of the team.
The sophomores held a 14-point lead late in that contest before their teammates-turned-opponents pulled out a 57-53 win.
“We were ahead, and we choked,” Nelson said somewhat glumly.
In four state tournament games, the Lady Braves won by an average of 25 points.
If the sophomores’ performances in the biggest game in AAA are an indicator of what is to come, the Lady Braves’ biggest challenge might come from within.