The Hobbs Lady Eagles are starting a tradition.
For the second-straight year, Hobbs claimed its own tournament championship, beating the Kirtland Central Lady Broncos 59-35 in Ralph Tasker Arena Saturday.
With the win Hobbs improves to 13-1 and next travels to Centennial on Thursday for a 6 p.m. tip off.
The title game featured the second ranked teams in New Mexico Class 5A and Class 4A, who both play tough defenses and use their full complement of players.
The Lady Eagles (13-1) came out with a strong opening, which allowed them to take control early and keep Kirtland Central (9-3) from playing its game.
“They are a good defensive team and they mixed up their defenses on us going zone, man, zone it caught us off guard a little bit,” said Hobbs head coach Joe Carpenter. “When we had to execute down the stretch, I thought down the stretch we did a good job on that.”
The Lady Eagles jumped out to the early 10-3 lead with some turnovers and key 3 pointers. Defensively Hobbs was able to adjust to the Lady Broncos defensive changes, which allowed them to build a 17-5 lead that was barely threatened.
Down 29-15 at halftime, Kirtland Central outhustled the Lady Eagles defensively, holding Hobbs to seven points. But Hobbs’ defense was one point tougher, holding the Lady Broncos to 6.
“One of the main things is to crash the boards and be really strong with the rebounds,” said Mariah Jennings on the directions the Lady Eagle bigs were given.
The Lady Eagles won the rebounding battle 27-20 with Ayanna Smith and Jennings combining for 15. It limited the Lady Broncos from having many second chance opportunites, and when it did Smith, Jennings, and Elise Turrubiates protected the paint with five blocks and many altered shots.
“(Carpenter) told us that they will (play a press defense) and that they are pretty good and they can shoot the threes. As long as we slow down and execute our plays we will get the job done,” Smith said.
The Lady Eagles did not struggle much against the Lady Broncos press, but the opposite was true. The Lady Eagles forced Kirtland into 20 turnovers, 15 from steals. The Hobbs press knocked Kirtland Central off its offensive rhythm making it difficult for the Lady Broncos to get quick and easy open jump shots. When Kirtland did get an open look, the Lady Eagles were quick on their rotation forcing Kirtland to take a contested shot.
Amiah Smith finished with a game-high 20 points — 12 coming in the fourth — five assists, two rebounds, and two steals. Ayanna Smith had 15 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals. Eighth-grader Wisdom Anthony had 10 points, an assist, two boards, two steals, and a block.
“It feels really good to win back to back in front of this crowd. We want to play hard for them so we can bring another one back,” said Smith.
Jennings echoed those sentiments saying, “it feels great and it’s a big thing to be apart of.”
Carpenter said winning a tournament title is a lot of fun to do in front of a home crowd.
“We are excited to play in front of our home crowd and not be on the road somewhere on Christmas break,” he said. “We want to thank the (Hobbs) Chambers and the whole city of Hobbs that supports us. We are just thankful that our kids can actually be home with their families on Christmas.”