By G. Demarest

After a costly win, the Moriarty High School girls basketball team faltered against two tough opponents to finish fourth in the 46th annual Alice King Invitational Tournament, Dec. 13-15 at the Lady Pintos’home court.

In the tournament opener, the Lady Pintos rolled to a 50-29 romp over the Rio Grande Lady Ravens.

But Moriarty suffered a setback when Kailei Edwards—the team’s top shooter—injured her knee during the game.

Edwards scored a game-high 18 points against the Ravens and said she sustained the injury when she collided with another player.

Moriarty’s Hope Bennett launching a shot against Miyamura. Photo by G. Demarest.

With the victory over Rio Grande, the Lady Pintos advanced to the winner’s side of the eight-team bracket without Edwards and lost 43-34 to the Grants Lady Pirates Dec. 14, followed by a 56-27 defeat the next day to Gallup’s Miyamura Lady Patriots.

“This is the best team we’ve played so far, they were making everything they shot,” Moriarty’s Ashley Strader said after the loss to the Lady Patriots, adding, “I think effort-wise, this is probably our best game even though the score doesn’t reflect it, we played super-well against this team.”

Strader led Moriarty with 11 points.

The Lady Pintos (4-4) started the game with a 3-pointer from Tristen Sauter that spurred an early 5-0 run.

Miyamura responded with a 10-0 run that ballooned to a 15-2 surge by the end of the first quarter.

Moriarty put together a 7-0 spurt late in the second quarter, but Miyamura still led by 9 at halftime.

The dagger for the Lady Pintos came in the third quarter when they were outscored 17-3 and didn’t sink a field goal until Meredith Wilson’s layup with :26 left in the stanza.

“We needed it,” Wilson said of her layup. “I’ve had a hard time getting baskets recently, so I felt like it was my turn—it felt so great.”

“I thought we played pretty well except for the third quarter,” Moriarty head coach Joe Bailey said. “We became impatient and tried to skip steps, but you can’t score 10 points at a time—we’ve got to play one possession at a time.”

Against Grants the night before, Moriarty fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter and trailed 25-9 at halftime.

After failing to sink a field goal in the third quarter, the Lady Pintos were looking up at a 33-13 deficit at the start of the fourth.

Moriarty’s first field goal of the second half finally came on Hope Bennett’s jump shot with 5 minutes remaining in the game.

Bennett’s 3-pointer a minute later sparked an 11-0 run to trim the margin to single digits. She scored all her 9 points in the final 5 minutes.

Brooke Burch led the Pintos with 11.

Without Edwards in the lineup, Bailey acknowledged that the Lady Pintos are offensively challenged.

“She’s our leading scorer,” Bailey said. “But part of it is, we’re feeling the pressure to win instead of just playing and having fun.”

“We’re doing good things and we’re getting there,” Strader added. “We just gotta put it all together for a whole game.”

The annual Alice King tournament—named in honor of New Mexico’s longest-serving First Lady—is the oldest girls high school basketball tournament in the state.

The Lady Pintos played at Socorro Dec. 18.