By William Thompson
Free throws down the stretch made the difference for the Fort Sumner Foxes as they slipped past Tucumcari, 57-54, on Thursday at Tucumcari High School.
It was the third time the teams have met this season. Fort Sumner won the first game, then Tucumcari evened the series in double overtime in December.
“Both of these teams have a lot of respect for each other,” Rattlers coach John Span said. “We both know that on any given night the other team can win.”
The Rattlers also played at Santa Rosa on Friday night and they’re scheduled to host Raton about 7:30 tonight.
Span said the difference Thursday was poor inside shooting by his Rattlers. He told his players they could have won if they had made some easy shots early.
“We were 11 of 24 inside the paint in the first half,” Span said.
Eric Holt returned to action for the Rattlers after being out with ankle problems. He scored 10 points, hitting a couple of fall-away jumpers along the way.
Nemie Salvador returned to action as well. His ball handling was as fluid as ever, but he missed all his shots and did not score.
“Nemie is still a little rusty,” Span said. “He wasn’t able to get it in the hole tonight.”
Span singled out Tucumcari senior Chris McCasland for his effort.
“I guess coach liked my driving to the bucket and drawing fouls,” McCasland said. “I got quite a few rebounds, too.”
Matt Braziel was the Rattlers’ high scorer with 13 points.
The Rattlers were within striking distance throughout, trailing 26-23 at the half.
Tucumcari went up by as much as eight points in the fourth quarter, but the Foxes surged late, hitting a number of unanswered shots. Taking the lead with about two minutes left, the Foxes drew fouls and hit free throws down the stretch. Tucumcari was forced to foul quick and often in the final minute.
Scoring by quarter
Tcum 10 13 16 16 = 54
FSum 16 10 13 17 = 57
Tcum: N. McDonald 8, C. McCasland 6, E. Holt10, J. Lopez 8, M. Braziel 13, J. Villegas 6, R. Munoz 4.
FSum: J. Gauna 21, B. Williamson 3, B. Wilson 8, R, Cortese, R. Canales 7, T. Segura, R. Fikany 7.