After overcoming a worthy opponent, a dose of big-game jitters, and a key player throwing up during the fourth quarter, Moriarty High School’s girls basketball team dispatched the visiting Grants Lady Pirates 69-48 in last Friday’s District 5-5A tournament championship.
“Heck, yeah! I’m so excited,” Moriarty senior Averee Ortiz said after the victory.
“It’s really cool, I’ve always wanted to go to state,” added Alyssa Adams, who nailed three of Moriarty’s five 3-pointers. She finished with a game-high 23 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double.
The win gives the Lady Pintos both their first district crown and their first trip to the state tournament since 2009, when Adams’ twin older sisters, Kristin and Brandi Valencia, were seniors. “It makes us feel so old,” Kristin Valencia said.
Moriarty senior Mariah Peterson opened the game by scoring the home team’s first 7 points.
“Being here in the district championship, I just came out really pumped,” Peterson said. She finished with 14 points.
But the Lady Pirates, who played better than their 9-20 record might suggest, used an 8-0 run in the second quarter to keep the score close throughout the first half.
“It was a little nerve-wracking for us,” Moriarty head coach Joe Bailey said of the first-half jitters. “These girls have never been in this situation before and we knew it was going to be a tough matchup. Once they finally relaxed, they started hitting some shots and got better on defense.”
After scratching and clawing through the game’s first 16 minutes, the Lady Pintos (20-7, 6-0 in district) held a slim 33-32 lead early in the third quarter.
With 6 minutes to go in the stanza, Ortiz took the ball the full length of the court and sank a coast-to-coast layup. “I saw a lane so I just drove in and shot it, and I was really hoping it would go in,” Ortiz said.
Not only did it go in, Ortiz was fouled during the layup, sending her to the charity stripe. She sank the plus-one free throw igniting a 17-4 run that extended into the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Then in the final frame, Ortiz said she started feeling nauseous. During a Moriarty timeout, she ran over to a court-side trashcan and threw up. “It was like projectile vomit into that trashcan,” Ortiz said. “It was the most disgusting thing ever.”
But she blew her nose, wiped her face, and told Bailey she wanted to go back in.
A minute later, Ortiz drained a high-arcing 3-pointer from the left side to put Moriarty up 55-40 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the game.
“I was like, ‘OK, Coach, I’m good,’ and that’s when I scored that 3,” Ortiz said. “I was so happy.” She chipped in 12 points for the Lady Pintos.
Moriarty also ramped up its defense in the second half, holding Grants to 20 points over the final two frames. “We didn’t play very good defense in the first half,” Adams said. “We started to realize that defense was the way we were gonna win it.”
The victory was Moriarty’s 20th of the 2015-16 campaign, ending six consecutive losing seasons for the Lady Pintos and earning them the No. 6 spot in the upcoming Class 5A state tournament.
“It’s very rewarding, it’s good to be here” Bailey said of winning district and earning a state berth. “There aren’t any easy games left.”
Moriarty hosts No. 11 Farmington in the first round of the state tournament Friday at 6 p.m.