With seven straight wins and an improvement to 8-0 at home after their last two outings, the Dulce High School girls basketball team has all but claimed the District 1-2A championship, they will just have to wait until Friday night to make it official.
The Lady Hawks (17-6, 9-1) have a two-game advantage in the district loss column over Rehoboth Christian High School, who currently sits at 15-9 overall and 7-3 in the district.
Dulce already handled the Lady Lynx, 54-40, in Rehoboth on Feb. 1, and the teams are slated to meet in the final game of the regular season, this time in Dulce. Even with a loss in the finale, Dulce would still claim first place in the district with only two district losses.
Dulce’s clear path to the district championship could have become a ton foggier if it weren’t for a first-quarter goose egg posted by Newcomb High School in the teams’ game between each other Feb. 15 at the Dulce Athletic Complex.
The Lady Hawks would hold on for a 52-41 victory, but they look destined for a much larger win after steamrolling out the gate to lead 18-0 after the first quarter. Despite gaining the large advantage and upping the margin to 33-14 at halftime, Dulce struggled with ball control — specifically, transitioning to offense after securing a defensive rebound — an accounted for 13 first half turnovers and would go on to cough up the ball 27 times overall.
“Even getting up, we came out and it looked like we had never seen a press before,” Dulce head coach Stanford Salazar said. “Missed layups too. It’s minor stuff, but somewhere down the line, minor stuff will kill us in a big game.”
Aside from turnovers, the Lady Hawks missed 17 layups at the rim, including 10 in the second half when Newcomb made a push to get back in the game. The Lady Skyhawks (11-13) managed to cut the lead down to 12 points at 38-26 after Shoshanna Begay nailed a 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter, but the Lady Hawks didn’t crack.
In the fourth, Dulce extended its lead back to 15 points after Lauryn Vigil took the ball hard to the basket and converted a layup while being fouled on the play with 6:21 on the clock. They slammed the door shut on Newcomb for good when Kierston Vicenti put home a layup — also while also being fouled — to put the Lady Hawks ahead, 50-35, with 1:26 left in the game.
There were plenty of mistakes that could have cost Dulce, and free throw percentage was also on that list after a 50 percent performance (17-of-34), but they played well enough on the defensive side by recording 13 steals, with six coming from Brooke Vigil.
The team also brought down 42 total rebounds and both Jaelynn Reval (13) and Brooke Vigil (11) reached double-digits on the glass.
“What helped us was changing our defense a little bit,” Salazar said about overcoming the mistakes made in other areas. “It’s still a zone but we ran more stuff to cover corners and give-in-goes and we were trapping a little bit more out of it.”
Junior Caitlin Duncan was aggressive with the ball against the Lady Skyhawks, as she led the Lady Hawks with 13 points to help Dulce revenge a 48-45 overtime loss to Newcomb Jan. 24 on the road. She also recorded six rebounds, three assists and shot 3-of-4 from the free throw line.
Brooke Vigil and Lauryn Vigil added nine points apiece and Begay recorded a game-high 18 points to pace Newcomb.
The district tournament is set to take place the week after the conclusion of the regular season, but Salazar believes there’s a good chance his team will see another familiar foe to kick off the state tournament, beginning on March 8.
“We need to have a killer instinct now,” he said. “Wherever we get that seed (in the state tournament) we’re gonna be right around the middle and our district teams are down there: so we might be four or five and one of them will be 12, or whatever.”
A day later, Brooke Vigil and Reval controlled the glass again by totaling 10 rebounds apiece to secure double-doubles and Brooke Vigil had a game-high 16 points to help lead Dulce past Navajo Pine, 60-38, on Feb. 16 at the Athletic Complex.
The Lady Hawks cut their turnovers to 18 and came up with 17 steals in a game where they led 16-6 after a quarter of play and 38-20 at halftime. They separated behind a 22-point second quarter, which included five made 3-pointers by five different players. Reval had 13 points and Alancia Herrera, Brannon Vigil and Duncan all chipped in seven.