Eighth-grader Jemmah Estrada battles Santa Fe’s Alexia Herrera for a ball in the RAC; those are Ram seniors Abby Armijo (10) and Tamiera Smyth (11) hoping it comes to one of them. (Herron photo)

This probably didn’t look like the same Santa Fe team Rio Rancho coach Lori Mabrey had seen her team whip by 27 points only 25 days before.

“They took Cleveland to the wire by four (a 43-39 CHS win Dec. 20 in the Thunderdome), and they’ve changed. (The first time we played them), they played a 2-3 zone, a kind of stand-around 2-3 zone. Today they were in a 1-2-2; they trapped the corners; they came after our guards a little bit harder. They even pressed in spurts.

“They had a whole new set of in-bounds plays, so I think they threw the kitchen sink at us, to be honest,” she added. “I’m really proud of our kids, because I think – even though the game was closer – our kids got better.”

The visiting Demonettes (3-7) gave the Rams (7-4) more than they could handle for the game’s first 10 minutes, before an 18-2 Rams run paved the way for a 46-31 victory on the evening of Dec. 27 in the RAC.

There were nine lead changes before that run began with 5:54 left before halftime, and Santa Fe went without a point for the next 10 minutes.

At the end of the second quarter, the Rams led 18-15; at the end of the third quarter, after the run ended, it was 33-21.

Santa Fe got as close as seven early in the fourth quarter, and coach Nate Morris called a timeout, with his team trailing 33-26.

Rio Rancho went on a 13-5 run from that point on, as junior Makenna Lee scored a game-high 19 points, 14 of them after halftime. Nobody else was in double figures.

“It was a quiet 19 for her; I felt like I was on her case a lot,” Mabrey said. “Makenna’s a very solid offensive player, and she definitely needs to have the ball in her hands.”

Mabrey also credited the work of eighth-grader Jemmah Estrada and Violet Francisco, a senior, for their efforts in the win.

The Demonettes shot from behind the arc 30 times, making six of them; the Rams were 1 of 3 from long range.

Following their disappointing loss to visiting Eldorado a week earlier, Mabrey was content with her team’s handling the ball.

“I told them I’d give them 20 and we were running the rest,” Mabrey said, hearing her team had committed 20 turnovers to Santa Fe’s 15. “So they heard it.”

As for free-throw shooting, the Rams were 15 of 21 (71 percent), after making 7 of 19 (37 percent) vs. Eldorado.

“We haven’t gone there yet; one thing at a time,” she said, chuckling.

Nonetheless, the victory will make her New Year happier.

Ram dunks: In next week’s annual APS Metro Girls Basketball Championships, the Rams face Hobbs in a first-round game Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Cibola High School. La Cueva meets Cibola in the 7:15 game in the Cougars’ lair. Tuesday’s winners meet at Cibola Wednesday at 7:15, after Tuesday’s losers meet at 5:30 there.

… Once Metro tournament is over, the Rams hit the road to play Roswell Jan. 13 and then travel to Los Alamos Jan. 17.