Mancos loses battle of birds

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Alaena Romero-Keller grabs a rebound Tuesday night against Shiprock Northwest.

By Bobby Abplanalp Journal staff writer

Mancos went on a roller coaster ride Tuesday evening.

The Lady Bluejays started fast and went up, then came down. Mancos went back up, but came back down. In the end, Mancos stayed down.

In a back-and-forth cross state girls basketball game, it was the Lady Bluejays losing at home to the Shiprock Northwest Lady Falcons, 58-55.

“Our girls played really hard. I was proud of their effort,” first-year Lady Bluejays coach Josh Kitchen said. “I think it came down to, we missed some shots that we probably can make in the future. But give the other team some credit. They were down and they fought back. I think they caught us off guard.”

Mancos (1-2) came out firing on all cylinders and built a 10-0 lead. It wasn’t until Chelsea Smiley’s free throw when Shiprock Northwest (2-1) got on the board.

It was all Lady Bluejays in the first quarter, as the Lady Falcons from New Mexico trailed 20-7 after one.

However, the second quarter belonged to the visitors.

The Lady Falcons caught fire and soared on a 9-0 run to open the second frame and cut the Mancos lead to 20-16.

Lady Bluejay senior Alaena Romero-Keller’s put back momentarily thwarted the Lady Falcons run, making the score 22-16.

But Northwest kept coming.

Alicia Roe’s 3-pointer made it 22-21 before Danika Evensen’s layup put Mancos ahead 24-21. That would be the Lady Bluejays’ last field goal of the half.

The Lady Falcons ended the second quarter on an 8-1 run and led 29-25 at the half in front of a shocked home crowd.

“Our girls recovered at halftime, and we came back and gave them a game,” Kitchen said. “I just reminded the girls of what we’ve done in practice and how hard we’ve worked, and that we deserve this as much as the other team. The girls took that to heart and they realize we certainly have just as much of a right to win as anybody else.”

To start the third quarter, Emily Funmaker and Brandi Bundy scored on Mancos’ first two possessions to tie the game at 29 apiece.

Northwest answered with two 3s from Merylda Barbone, and a steal and layup by Jaslyn Begay. The Lady Falcons led 37-29 and it was the Lady Bluejays’ turn to rally.

Funmaker drove baseline for two and assisted Kayla Goff the next trip down to bring Mancos within 37-33. Consecutive buckets by Romero-Keller and a Whitney Gustafson fast-break lay in gave the Lady Bluejays the lead back at 39-38 going into the fourth quarter.

Back-and-forth the teams would go down the stretch.

Unfortunately, it was the Lady Falcons that made their free throws toward the end to escape with a huge 3-point road victory.

“The ball tips one way or another, the game probably ends a little differently,” Kitchen said. “The girls played hard and I was really happy with that. It’s a growing experience, and it’s something we can look back on and get better from.”

Mancos will have a week off to prepare for its next home game.

“I’ll encourage them to work hard and increase the defense,” Kitchen said. “We’ll really contest those balls when they (opponents) try to make those entrance passes. When the turnovers come, that’s when we get some easy points, which is always the goal.”

The Lady Bluejays host Monticello (Utah) on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m.

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