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ALBUQUERQUE – St. Pius X guard Natalie Zamora was all but invisible in the first half of Tuesday’s quarterfinal girls basketball game.
But Zamora turned into a specter that haunted the Española Valley Sundevils in the fourth quarter.
Zamora scored 22 points in the fourth quarter alone, spearheading the St. Pius effort to break open what had been a tight ballgame throughout. Behind Zamora, the No. 4-seeded Sartans went on an impressive 16-1 run to start the fourth quarter and earn a 71-58 victory at The Pit.
The loss by Española Valley ended a solid season under new head coach Oliver Torres.
Española Valley and St. Pius traded leads 11 times in the first three quarters Tuesday, but St. Pius held a 2-point edge at the break and a 3-point advantage after three quarters.
Then, to start the fourth quarter, Zamora buried a long-range 3-pointer to get the Sartans rally going.
“They were being really aggressive,” Zamora said of the Sundevil defense. “But we were really calm. We all made good decisions.”
Along with Zamora’s big quarter, the Sundevils struggled to keep control of the basketball, particularly around the timeline, leading to several quick points on the other end.
Española Valley, the No. 5 seed, stayed in the game despite shooting just 1-for-19 from 3-point range.
Keeping Española Valley close was its star senior guard, Lauren Quintana. Quintana, who had relatively quiet showings this season against Los Alamos, dropped in 26 points for the Sundevils.
Quintana was the District 2 Player of the Year as a junior and has displayed impressive driving and shooting ability throughout her career.
She said after the game this year was a tough one for the Sundevils, coming in after a coaching change that saw Ron Drake depart for Pojoaque Valley.
“It was a big adjustment with (Torres) coming in,” she said. “We all had to adjust to a lot of new offense and man-to-man defense. It was tough but we adjusted fast. Everybody did a good job.”
Quintana went 10-for-27 from the field. She got help from freshman post Ashlynn Trujillo, one of the crop of very impressive young players from District 2. Trujillo finished with 14 points and also grabbed 7 rebounds.
Torres said Trujillo sat out of the first round game against Grants, a closer-than-expected 53-50 win for Española Valley, due to a sprained ankle, and was only about 80 percent for the St. Pius game.
Zamora had 28 points for St. Pius and Katrina Estrada finished with 11 points. Caitlyn Martinez had a dominant performance on the glass with 16 rebounds to go along with 8 points.