Rio Rancho senior guard Abigayle Armijo (10) does her best to keep Eldorado star Bella Hines from finding her way to the basket, or trying a 3-pointer, Tuesday evening in the RAC. (Herron photo)



It was a game the Rams could have – and should have – won.

But Eldorado sophomore guard Bella Hines, said by Rams coach Lori Mabrey to be the best girls player in the state, took charge in the fourth quarter Tuesday evening in the Eagles’ 44-41 victory in the RAC.

Hines finished with 33 points, including all 10 of the Eagles’ points in the opening quarter and all 16 in the final quarter. She wasn’t perfect, hitting “only” five of her 14 shots from behind the arc, and you can probably count her rebounds on one hand.

Still, it was an awesome display from the 5-foot, 9-inch point guard who dribbles equally well with either hand.

“She’s really good,” Mabrey added. “We could’ve won that one; we could’ve won the Organ Mountain one; we could’ve won the St. Pius one.

“I think that we just have to learn to win down the stretch. I think our kids get nervous down the stretch, and turnovers in key moments kill us,” she said. “I think they’re afraid they’re going to mess up. These girls have never been in those tight situations before and it’s just something they’re going to have to learn.”

It was a nip-and-tuck battle heading into the fourth quarter, with the Rams (6-4) holding a 31-28 lead, with only two lead changes to that point.

Hines hit back-to-back 3s in the first 1:10 of the final stanza, and the Eagles (3-4) never trailed again, although the game was knotted at 39 after a layup by the Rams’ leading scorer, senior Julia Espinosa.

Hines drilled a 3 with 2:44 to go and sank two free throws, after a double-dribble turnover by Jayme Archuleta, with 1:29 to play for a five-point lead. Right after that, Aryanna Bustillos turned the ball over, and although Eldorado was unable to take advantage by twice going to the free throw line and missing the front ends of one-and-ones.

Espinosa’s putback closed out the scoring, and she missed the “and-one” attached to it that would have made it a two-point deficit.

But the frequent turnovers – unofficially, 22 for the game – and missed free throws turned what “shudda been” a Rams win into a loss.

“We left a lot of points out there. We’re our own worst enemy,” Mabrey said.

The Rams were just 7 of 17 from the charity stripe, where Espinosa, who finished with 16 points, was just 4 of 12. Makenna Lee had 15 points for the Rams, but was 1 of 5 at the line.

“I’m not giving up on them,” Mabrey said. “I’m pleased with our efforts; I think we play hard; I think we do a lot of things right, but we’ve got to get better at the things we don’t do well.”

Ram dunks: The Rams also lost their last meeting with Eldorado, another close game, 64-63, in the APS metro battle for seventh place.

… The Rams’ next game is Tuesday evening at 7 when Santa Fe visits the RAC. The Demons were beaten by  Cleveland, 43-39, Tuesday evening in Santa Fe.