By Jesse Wolfersberger
ALBUQUERQUE — In the first quarter, the Elida Lady Tigers looked unintimidated and confident against top-seeded Tatum. By the fourth, they looked like a team that was rattled and overmatched.
Tatum guard Reahannon Lizardo scored 23 points to lead the Lady Coyotes over fourth-seeded Elida 55-36 in the semifinals of the Class 1A state basketball tournament at Del Norte High School.
The Lady Tigers (25-3) scored the first four points of the game and led until the final minute of the first quarter before Tatum (30-1) rallied and built a 14-point halftime lead.
“We just never could get a stop after that,” Howard said. “We got to bleedin’ and we couldn’t ever get it shut off.”
Freshman guard Lindsey Smith paced the Lady Tigers with 17 points including three 3-pointers.
Already down double digits, things got worse for Elida in the third quarter when they did not make a field goal and netted only four total points.
“They are a well coached team,” Howard said. “They don’t make no mistakes, they’re very mature. We made some mental mistakes during the game and it cost us big.”
Thursday’s game was the last for Elida seniors Jewlie Paiz and Kodi Armitage, who finished with five and nine points, respectively.
“We came out pretty good,” Paiz said. “Then towards the middle and the end of the game we started to slow down. I think we underestimated them quite a bit.”
Paiz said things just fell apart offensively and defensively in the second half.
“I was starting to get really, really frustrated,” she said. “I was turning the ball over, everybody was turning the ball over, and we couldn’t do anything to stop them.”
Armitage said despite Tatum’s near perfect record and top-seed, the Lady Tigers did not go into the game feeling like the underdogs.
“Yeah, they’re number one,” Armitage said. “But they’re beatable. We just didn’t have a good night.”
Howard said his team started the game exactly how he wanted them to.
“We came out doing the things we wanted to do,” Howard said. “Then our defense started to over rotate and they took advantage of it.”
The Elida coach added that this season was very successful despite the sour ending.
“It’s been a great year for us,” Howard said. “I mean, 25-3, gosh there’s a lot of teams out there that would love to have that record.”
Armitage echoed her coach’s comments.
“We had a good season,” Armitage said. “We went a lot farther than anyone thought we would.”