FAIRFIELD — For three quarters Friday night, the Rodriguez High girls basketball team was able to disrupt, slow down and generally annoy visiting Armijo before a fourth-quarter Indians explosion undid all of that and sent Armijo to a 49-41 Monticello Empire League victory.
The Mustangs (11-11, 3-2 MEL) built a six-point lead at 32-26 with 3 minutes, 44 seconds left in the third before the senior-heavy Indians (16-6, 5-0 MEL) fell back on their experience, taking took over and tying the game at 34-34 with three seconds left in the quarter on a drive to the hoop by Marshanique Hall.
Armijo took the lead for good on a Daija Daniels free throw just 37 seconds into the fourth.
Daniels followed that with a steal and dished to Melaya Gaines under the hoop for the layup and a 37-34 lead.
Rodriguez didn’t get its first basket of the quarter until Briana Hayles’ jumper with 5:46 to play, making it 41-36.
“I thought we picked up our defense in the second half, especially with Daija Daniels,” said Armijo coach Christian Stoll. “She’s been struggling with an injury, but came off the bench and really played excellent defense for us. . . . I think experience and heart and those sort of things really played out well for us in the end.”
The Indians also limited the Mustangs to 2-for-14 shooting in the fourth quarter and seven total points over the final eight minutes.
“That hurts. We came with our plan that we were going to run for our defense and the girls were running it pretty well,” said Rodriguez coach Lou Collier. “We were pretty much stopping them, but then we had a couple of breakdowns in the fourth quarter where they got a couple of buckets on us.”
Hayles carried the Mustangs early, pouring in 10 of her team’s 11 first-quarter points and she finished with a game-high 18.
Gaines led Armijo with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Hall added 12 points.
Laura Lawson scored just four points, but added nine rebounds to Armijo’s total of 39.
As the momentum shifted in the fourth, the Indians became more dominant.
Justice Robinson-Kroon snared a rebound and went coast to coast for a 45-37 lead with 3:31 to play.
Rodriguez got one more floor basket from Jophiea Irvin and a pair of free throws from Raeona Ford sandwiched around a Lawson putback.
Armijo closed it out with a Robinson-Kroon free throw with 21 seconds left.
“Our seniors’ experience, desire, heart, intensity, those sort of things really showed up in the fourth quarter, which is where we won the game,” Stoll said. “It was a really tight ballgame all night. I give credit to Rodriguez, they played really well. I thought they had a good strategy coming in against us offensively and defensively.”
Irvin had 13 points for the Mustangs.
“I’m still proud of how hard my girls played,” Collier said. “I think Armijo was a favored team for this game, so I thought we played tough.”
In junior varsity action the Mustangs won 49-39.
Rodriguez was led by Unique Woodlief with 13 points, while Tania Wilson and Mari Bowie added 11 each.
Armijo was led by Azanae Lewis with 14 and Destiny Blueford with 11.