Moriarty High School’s girls basketball head coach Joe Bailey said his team made a pivotal adjustment last Friday against visiting Del Norte. The tactic reversed a deficit and turned what might’ve been yet another loss to the Lady Knights into a 56-40 victory.

“It’s a big win,” Bailey said. “We have not beat Del Norte in a long time.”

In fact, Moriarty had lost 10 consecutive matchups to the Lady Knights—a former district rival—going back to February 2010. “They’re a quality program and they’ve had our number,” Bailey said. “We’re very excited about it.”

Moriarty's Mariah Peterson battling a pair of Del Norte defenders for the ball during last Friday's game. Photo by G. Demarest.

Moriarty’s Mariah Peterson battling a pair of Del Norte defenders for the ball during last Friday’s game. Photo by G. Demarest.

The Lady Pintos had trailed by as much as 7 points late in the first quarter and were still down 14-11 in the second when they found their footing and went on a 16-5 run to take a 27-19 lead at halftime.

“Once we adjusted to what they were doing, we played better defense and started making shots,” Bailey said.

The game-changer was shutting down Del Norte’s Malakah Martinez.

“We talked about their No. 4 [Martinez], she’s their best player, she’s super quick, and Alyssa Sauter and Averee Ortiz controlled her,” Bailey said. “That was the biggest key—we had to cut the head off the snake, and I don’t mean snake as a derogatory term, but like taking the head off a dragon.”

During that second-quarter run, Moriarty’s Alyssa Adams scored 8 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. “I think we finally found our rhythm,” said Adams, who scored a game-high 17 points.

Ortiz capped the second-quarter scoring when she stole a Del Norte inbound pass near the free-throw line with :01 on the clock and threw the ball up with one hand to make a buzzer-beating basket.

“I honestly did not think that it was going to go in,” Ortiz said. “I went up there and [the inbound pass] went right into my hands and I was like, OK, but I thought it was too late.”

Before the players vacated the court for the intermission, one of the officials ran over to the scorekeeper’s table and motioned that the basket had in fact beaten the buzzer. “And I was all, ‘OK, cool!’” Ortiz said. “We were so excited about that, we all got into the same groove and started working together. … I think we played very well after that.”

Ortiz hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 14 points.

The win over Del Norte improved Moriarty’s record to 13-7, the best in District 5-5A. But with district games just now getting underway, Bailey said it’s time to begin what he called the team’s “second season.”

“Our district’s tough and we have to come ready to play,” he said. “We still run into periods where we doubt ourselves but we’re more confident and we’re getting stronger and stronger.”

The Lady Pintos hosted district rival St. Pius X Tuesday after The Independent went to print.