Cleveland junior Kindyll Sandoval (22) waves to ball-holder Aaliyah Ayanniyi, hoping to get a pass in second-half action at Bulldog City the evening of Nov. 29. (Herron photo)

  Often, when a team falls behind by 17 points in the second half of a basketball or even a football game on the road, there’s scant chance of a comeback.

The visiting Cleveland High School girls basketball team defied the odds of making a comeback, but still came out on the short end of a 40-36 contest Tuesday evening at Albuquerque High.

The Storm (0-2) started digging the hole in the first half, when they were 1 of 10 at the free throw line, 0 for 10 from 3-point range and missed a handful of routine shots at the basket.

Cleveland missed six free throws and managed only one field goal in the first quarter, then made one of four free throws in the second quarter and trailed at halftime, 14-3.

\A 14-1 Bulldogs run midway through the contest had the hosts up 21-4, and that’s when the Storm started to show life, going on an 11-2 run of their own to cut the deficit to eight points.

The turnover-prone Bulldogs kept send CHS players to the foul line, and the Bulldogs’ 13-12 edge in the third quarter still had them ahead by a dozen points, 27-15, heading into the fourth quarter.

Suddenly, the Storm started sinking free throws and what turned out to be a 19-7 run, which consisted of eight free throws, caught the Bulldogs at 34 with 2:27 remaining in regulation.

But the Storm managed only two points the rest of the way, on a buzzer-beater by Aaliyah Ayanniyi, after AHS had been on a 6-0 to seal the deal.

After managing a scant 15 points through the first three periods, Cleveland had a 21-point outburst in that final quarter, canning 9 of 15 free throws in that span.

Aubrey Jaramillo and Kindyll Sandoval, team’s only returnees from last season, scored 10 points apiece to lead their team.

Six-foot-one Leilani Love had her way inside and finished with 18 for the Bulldogs; she was perfect in her six shots at the charity stripe.

CHS coach Susan Kubala said, “We have a lot of fight. … We’re very young.

“We were resilient; we stayed in it. We fought back,” she said. “We shot really poorly the first half and, honestly, we shot poorly the third quarter, but we kept at it.

“I’m proud of their fight and we need to knock down free throws,” she added, although making 13 of 21 in the second half was much better than 1 of 10 in the first half.

“For as poorly as we shot in the first half, at Clovis we shot 50 percent for the game,” Kubala said. “We’ve just got to keep learning, keep rolling. We’ve got to fix maybe some mental errors – defensive breakdowns and that type of thing. Shots are gonna fall some games and they’re not gonna fall in other games.

“This group is very coachable, very resilient,” she concluded,” she said. “They will be ready to practice (Wednesday). We will keep improving the entire season.”

Dribbles: The first coaches’ poll for the girls came out last week. Hobbs is No. 2, followed by Volcano Vista, Sandia, La Cueva and Farmington in the top five. Neither Cleveland nor Rio Rancho amassed enough points to be in the top 10.

… The same night the Storm were at AHS, the Rams girls (2-0) won a 54-32 game at Española Valley (0-2).