Slane’s 34 elevates Lady ’Birds over Sierra Grande, 62-55

BLANCA—In a 1A Southern Peaks League battle in which a four-point lead was an accomplishment for either side, a seven-point pad most definitely wasn’t safe…until the Sierra Grande High School Gymnasium scoreboard read Sangre de Cristo 62, SG 55 Friday evening.

Lady Thunderbird junior Jessica Slane went off for an impressive game-high 34 points, including 13 during the closing eight minutes, but the visitors’ 47-40 advantage during the final frame disappeared completely when Lady Panther junior Annahy Quezada evened the score at 52-52 with 3:12 remaining.  SdC freshman

Renee Sinclair immediately countered with a basket at the other end, only to see SG senior Nina Vigil re-tie at 54 and set the stage for a frenetic final 2:30.

“It was kind of like the Antonito game at the Thunderbird Shootout,” recalled Slane.  “It was pretty intense, but it’s a lot of fun playing them.  I like that energy; it makes me play harder, so it was good.”

A Slane basket with 1:49 remaining gave the guests a two-point lead, and after a Vigil free throw, Slane struck again for a 58-55 lead.  Helped by a vital 15-footer off the elbow down the home stretch by sophomore Lexis Metz, Slane was able to ice the game with two free throws and only 0:04.8 left.

With a Sierra Grande-leading 20 points to her name, Vigil fouled out on the play, becoming the second Lady Panther disqualified (following junior Abby Corona, who departed with 5:08 left in the game and 14 points) in the contest.  Sangre de Cristo (16-2, 8-1 SPL), meanwhile, lost freshman Avery Palmgren to her fifth personal with

1:14 left in the third quarter and freshman Kylee Christensen 5:39 remaining in the fourth.

“She’s so good,” SdC head coach Brice Crowther said of Vigil.  “We just tried to keep pressure on her and make everything difficult.  Tried to use some of my girls with more length to…fluster her.”

“We definitely didn’t help ourselves in a lot of areas,” he noted, “but our defense…kept us in it.”

“Our girls kind of fluctuated,” he continued, addressing a concerning first-half turnover count which helped SG take a 24-22 halftime lead via a 16-foot bank shot by junior Brooke Paine with 0:48 left in the second quarter.  “You always have ups and downs when you have such a young team like we do.”

“We just came out and did the best we could,” Lady Panther head coach Leslie Corona said.  “We pride our team on defense, work very hard on that, but we just got in foul trouble and that…just kind of put the nail in the coffin, I think.”

“I told my girls in the locker room, ‘Don’t hang your heads, because you left everything on the court.’”

Senior Jannelle Aguilar joined Vigil and Corona in double figures with her ten points, and Quezada totaled a well-timed six (she’d started the fourth quarter tying the score atm40-40, wiping out Sangre’s earlier 37-30 advantage), but Sierra Grande

(13-5, 9-1) finished the game just 8-of-20 from the free-throw line.

Christensen and Metz each finished with seven for the Lady T-birds, who went 14-of-24 from the stripe, and sophomore Makenzie Rogers matched Palmgren’s six.

Caption: Sangre de Cristo’s Jessica Slane finds a narrow window to shoot through. Slane posted a whopping 34 points adding 8 of 11 from the free throw line./Photo courtesy of Kim Marquez