ALBUQUERQUE — Fort Sumner was in big-time trouble in the first half of Saturday's Class 1A girls state championship game at the Pit — not only were the Vixens trailing, they had two starters saddled with three fouls.
Things didn't turn right away in the second half, but eventually Fort Sumner's quickness and aggressive defense helped get its offense going and the top-seeded, second-ranked Vixens beat second-seeded-but-top-ranked Tatum 46-39.
Senior guard Sarah Stinnett, who went out with three fouls at the 4:27 mark of the second quarter, avoided further trouble after halftime and finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Vixens (27-3), who won their first title since 2005 despite shooting 25 percent (15-of-60) from the field.
Fort Sumner, which handed the Lady Coyotes (29-2) their only other loss in the semifinals of the EPAC tournament, gained a measure of revenge after losing to Tatum in the 1A volleyball finals last fall.
"It feels a whole lot better than losing (did) in volleyball," said Stinnett, who had a third-quarter foul that would have been her fourth properly switched to G.A. Tucker.
Trailing 28-18, Fort Sumner went on a 12-0 run capped by sophomore guard LaNay Crenshaw's basket to start the final quarter. The Vixens, who took the lead for good at 35-33 on two free throws by junior Candy Jo Webb with 5:10 left, outscored the Coyotes 28-11 over the game's final 13 minutes.
"Our shots were off (early)," said Crenshaw, who finished with nine points and six assists. "After awhile, we relaxed and just started playing ball."
The Lady Coyotes played a triangle-and-two defense most of the way against Stinnett and Tucker, a transfer this year from Sedan (Kan.), who was the team's second-leading scorer behind Stinnett. The Vixens had a rough second quarter, scoring only six points and getting Stinnett and junior Ashley Landreth in foul trouble in falling behind 24-16.
Then Tatum, which had only one foul the entire first half, eventually got standouts Kylie Wheeler and Karina Cardenas into foul trouble down the stretch.
"I don't think we 'deflated,'" Tatum coach Mike Majors said. "Fort Sumner really picked it up (in the second half). They're just so mentally tough — no quit."
Cardenas finished with 12 points before fouling out late, while Ramirez had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"I was confident (at halftime), but not cocky," Ramirez said. "They (Vixens) always finish strong."
Tucker, whose given name is Georgia Ann, provided a big boost for the Vixens this year in volleyball and basketball. She finished Saturday's game with nine points and six rebounds.
"I've never been to state before in anything," she said. "I just loved the ride this team had."
The Vixens won the game by sinking 12-of-16 free throws to 5-of-12 for Tatum, and by forcing the Lady Coyotes into 22 turnovers.
"We talked about how we may get the lead, but it would probably be decided in the fourth quarter," Majors said. "Defensively, our girls executed (the triangle-and-two) as well as we could, with short time to work on it.
"Our problem was taking care of the basketball.”