To cap off our regular season schedule on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team, we bring you a pivotal girls high school basketball matchup that will not only have implication on District 2/5A girls, but will also have implications on state seeding, when the West Mesa Lady Mustangs will pay a visit to the La Cueva Lady Bears. The last time that these two teams met, the Lady Mustangs pulled off a 58-46 win on their home court. These two teams also met in the championship of the Girls Albuquerque Metro Tournament.
The Lady Mustangs went into District 2/5A play with high hopes, as they were undefeated during non-district play, with their non-district wins including names like Hobbs in overtime, Carlsbad, Volcano Vista, and Mayfield. But all of a sudden, West Mesa realized the competition that they were in for in district. So far, the Lady Mustangs’ only two losses on the season and in district play are to Piedra Vista, who is currently ranked ahead of them in the NMOT Coaches Polls. That is the only reason right now why West Mesa is currently not leading the district. To help their case a little bit, they secured a win against Eldorado on Wednesday night by a score of 75-46.
Right now, the only way for the Lady Mustangs to stay in contention for the District 2/5A title is if Piedra Vista loses their matchup with Farmington, while West Mesa wins this game.
Perhaps two of the biggest stars on that West Mesa team is senior guard Maiah Rivas and junior guard Jaden Castellano. So far this season, Rivas currently averages 13.5 points per game, along with 2.9 assists per game, while Castellano averages 9.4 points per game, along with 3.6 rebounds per game. Another big piece of the Lady Mustangs’ team is Esperanza, or “Espi”, Varoz, who just recently made her commitment to Army to play basketball for the Black Knights. So far this season, Varoz averages 8.8 points per game and six rebounds.
On the other side of the court is the La Cueva Lady Bears, who too began with a great season in non-district play, securing wins over names like Volcano Vista, Mayfield, and Rio Rancho, but have struggled to gain some key wins that they needed in District 2/5A play. Falling below .500 at 3-4 in district play, the Lady Bears have lost to their district foes, Farmington and West Mesa once, and Piedra Vista twice, and have beaten Eldorado in a sweep, along with a win against Farmington to split their season series. With the loss, it gave the Panthers the secured share of the District 2/5A title, but also a chance to win the district title should they beat Farmington on Friday. “We gotta improve on free throw shooting. They (Piedra Vista, whom they faced on Wednesday) were 10/14, and we were 4/13, so you don’t win one-point games when you’re 4/13 from the line,” said Lady Bears head coach Rob Perea. “Turning the ball over less and hitting our free throws are the things we need to focus on the next couple of days.”
The leader of the pack for La Cueva is the junior phenom, Kaya Ingram, who currently averages around 17 points a game, along with around 2.4 assists per game as well. The dynamic freshman duo of Teona Savic and Rylie Ottmann lead right behind Ingram, as Savic currently averages around nine points a game, while Ottmann currently averages seven points a game. Senior Deja Sandoval and freshman Carolina Romero also prove to be critical pieces of La Cueva’s offense. “She’s still our lead guard, Farmington tried to box-and-1 her, Eldorado tried to box-and-1 her, so she’s been the focus of every other team,” Perea added about his offense surrounding Ingram. “She’s put up 22 points against Farmington, 20 against Eldorado, and 18 last night (against Piedra Vista). So even though they’ve focused on her, she’s still found a way to impact the game.”
Going into this game, the Lady Bears will look to work around the mistakes they made in their previous matchups with West Mesa, and play one of their best games of the season. “We’re gonna go ahead and pressure them again. Our strength is our athleticism, and when we get after people with our half-court man (defense),” said Perea. “They’re a good squad; the key for us is to get off to a good start.”
The pregame show will begin at 6:30 pm after the conclusion of the Jim Villanucci Show. Scott Galetti and Brian O’Neill will crack the mic with coverage of the game.