Lady Cougars fall to Carlsbad, but leave impressive mark

The Carlsbad Cavegirls beat Tohatchi 66-35 Saturday in the girls championship game of the annual John Lomasney Lady Bengals Invitational Basketball Tournament at Gallup High School. The game was the first loss for Tohatchi in the weekend tournament which saw the Lady Cougars beat Gallup and Miyamura high schools.

In the championship game, the highly competitive Lady Cougars never led in the game.

Carlsbad jumped out to a 13-2 first quarter lead behind the scoring punch of sophomore guard Carsyn Boswell who shook the Lady Cougars with a variety of jumpers and inside shots. Tohatchi junior guard Kalian Mitchell had her hands full trying to guard the taller Boswell and when on offense Mitchell couldn’t get in to assist and scoring mode as the Cavegirls were switching and double-teaming Mitchell and senior guard Cheyenne Begay.

Mitchell and Begay are all-state players for Tohatchi, with Mitchell considered one of the top point guards in New Mexico, and Begay a top echelon player defensively in New Mexico.

Mitchell scored 11 points and Begay hit 9 points, respectively. Tohatchi’s Crystal Haley, considered a quick all-around player on offense and defense, went scoreless. Mitchell scored two 3-pointers in the loss.

“We had some defensive breakdowns and that obviously hurt us,” Tohatchi head coach Tanisha Bitsoi said. “I don’t think we were tired, but this was a 6A team so I think that made a difference.”

Bitsoi said the early Lady Cougars’ schedule has included teams like 4A Laguna Aroma and 4A Roberston High School of Las Vegas. That means the Lady Cougars will be that much more battle-tested come the post-season which Tohatchi has made the past few years, Bitsoi alluded.

“This is always a good thing down the road,” Bitsoi said of the early heavy scheduling. “There’s nothing negative in that.”

Junior guard Mariel Gomez and senior forward Kim Best did a lot of outside and inside damage for Carlsbad. The versatile Boswell scored a game high 19 points and Best poured in 13. Tohatchi simply could not match a Carlsbad front line that included three players over six feet tall. Begay tried to maneuver and look for passes from Mitchell, but the Cavegirls’ swarming defense was too tight.

“This is a very good team,” Carlsbad head coach John Zumbrun said of Tohatchi. Carlsbad went 24-3 last year, and went to the state semi-finals. “We run a motion-oriented offense and we were able to make a lot of our inside shots and jumps shots in this game.”

John Brooks, athletic director at Tohatchi High, said the number of fans in the stands over the weekend was the highest it’s been this year for a Tohatchi girls basketball game.

“We have a strong support base and that was evident in each of the games that we played,” Brooks said, noting that there was standing-room only in each game. “I think everyone liked the quality of games that we saw in the tournament this year.”

The District 1-3A Lady Cougars dropped to 4-2 on the 2016 girls basketball season and Carlsbad improved to 6-0. Tohatchi’s weekend wins included an 84-75 win over Gallup, a game in which Mitchell torched the Lady Bengals for 41 points. Tohatchi beat Miyamura 62-47 in a prior tournament game.


In the tournament’s third place game, the Gallup High Lady Bengals fell to the Cleveland High Storm of Rio Rancho 54-50. Sophomore Desiree Forster of Cleveland hit 13 points and junior Callahan Franklin scored 14 for the Lady Storm. In the fifth place game, Winslow beat the Window Rock Lady Scouts 53-48. The seventh place game saw Grants beat Miyamura 35-34.

Story by Bernie Dotson
Photos by Ryan Hudgeons
Sun Correspondents