Safford sends Snowflake packing

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Mia Carter scores two of her game-high 13 points late in the fourth period to secure the win for Safford over Snowflake, 49-36.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The Safford Bulldogs girls basketball team overcame injury and utilized a balanced scoring attack and a lock-down defensive third period to send the Snowflake Lobos home with their tail between their legs. The Bulldogs remained unbeaten (4-0 overall) by handling the Lobos (3-3 overall), 49-36.

“We had a lot of people contribute tonight,” Safford head coach Robert Abalos said. “We had Rachel Fox get into a little bit of foul trouble and we called upon a couple of our sophomores. That’s what we’re going to have to do. We need to have depth on the bench.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Deion Abalos takes a shot from the foul line. Abalos went 7-10 from the charity stripe.

The teams played to a stalemate in the first 8 minutes of play with each club scoring 8 points. Safford then broke out a 5-point lead at halftime, 21-16, behind 3-point buckets from sophomore Mia Carter (who finished with a game-high 13 points) and senior point guard Analysa Montez, who had 8 of her 11 points in the first half. Senior guard/forward Deion Abalos also helped in the first half by hitting 4-6 from the free-throw line. Abalos would get a couple of field goals in the second half (including a 3-pointer) and finished with 12 points. 

The third period initially started out well for the Lobos as Heather Whipple scored twice to cut Safford’s lead to just 1 point, 21-20. It would be the only points Snowflake would score in the period.

Safford came roaring back with strong defense and rebounding to either not give Snowflake any shots or limit to just one on each possession. In turn, they jetted out after turnovers and rebounds, pushing the pace and scoring on fast breaks to take a 32-20 lead into the last period of play. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Mia Carter swishes a free-throw.

“I thought we came out in the second half and played a lot more aggressively defensively,” Abalos said. “We went to a man (defense and) changed things up a little bit and we did some things offensively (where) we were lucky enough to come out on top in the end.”

Safford’s fourth double-digit scorer, Jessica Bright-Schade, did almost all her damage in the second half, scoring 8 of her 10 points then, including a perfect 2-2 from the free-throw line.

The Lobos made a go of it in the fourth period, but they just ended up trading baskets with the Bulldogs, and when you’re down 10 points that’s not going to do it.

The Bulldogs solidified their victory by hitting 7-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth period and sent Snowflake back north 49-36.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Deion Abalos pulls up for a long 3-pointer. She missed on this attempt but made one earlier in the period to lengthen Safford’s lead.

After the game, coach Abalos described his gameplay as a tempo that is designed for guards and he believed it would prove fruitful moving forward. Safford will have a good test against fast-pace Res Ball starting this Thursday in the Choice Wireless Classic Invitational up north at Chinle High School.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Safford girls basketball coach Robert Abalos directs his players late in the fourth period.

“We have to find some depth on the bench and have some people come in and put in some quality minutes for girls who get into foul trouble or need a breather,” coach Abalos said. “Starting Thursday, that’s what our whole goal is; to go down there and find some other girls to help out.”