By Eric Butler: Freedom correspondent
GRADY — Confidence boosters can come in varying ways. The Logan basketball teams may have gotten just such an injection from both winning and losing Thursday night in Grady.
The Longhorns boys basketball team stayed undefeated in District 4-1A and tripped up the only team capable of catching them by knocking off the host Bronchos 71-55. In the girls game, though Logan did not win, a measure of confidence was gained even in a 71-60 loss to Grady.
In the boys contest, Logan (19-4, 8-0 district) raced out to a 9-2 lead and never trailed again.
Logan, which saw the early advantage shrink down to four points on a couple of occasions in the first quarter, was led by senior Jake Abercrombie’s 29 points while 6-foot-4 inch junior Austin Whetton added 15.
Abercrombie and Whetton, Logan’s primary inside threats, were often the beneficiaries of passes from senior guard Drew Perez, who finished with 13 points and seven assists.
“They played a zone more (than an earlier 55-40 victory at Logan). This time, they ran a man defense,” Logan coach Billy Burns said. “Early on, against the man, we got the ball inside; got some good picks set and got some guys open — freed them up for some good looks.”
Grady (12-11, 6-2) fell behind by as many as 17 points at the end of the third period and beginning of the fourth. Trailing by 17 points, the Bronchos cut the Logan lead to 61-53 after a 9-2 run. But a putback shot from Whetten, followed by a Abercrombie bucket, put an end to the last threat from the hometown Bronchos.
Senior Colt Grau led Grady with 15 points while sophomore Brian Blackburn and senior Domingo Diaz contributed 12 and 11 respectively.
After the game, Perez said that winning the district title is just the first of several goals this year’s Longhorns — currently rated No. 6 in the Albuquerque Journal Class 1A coaches poll — have in mind.
“We plan on going all the way. That’s what we set out to do at the start, we feel like that’s what we can do,” Perez said.
In the preceding girls contest, it was Grady (14-8, 8-0) that kept a stranglehold on the top of the district standings by knocking off the Longhorns 71-60. Logan (10-13, 5-3), in a battle with Clovis Christian for second in 4-1A, erased an early 20-8 deficit by scoring the last 12 points of the opening period to even the score.
The game’s outcome may have been decided by foul trouble.
Although Grady was in more of it early, three of its seven players had three before intermission, Logan senior Raynee Rachor picked up three quick fouls of her own in the last moments before half.
“One was stupid and, the other two, I went over to help and I shouldn’t have,” Rachor said. “That was dumb on my part.”
Rachor and fellow post player Nicole Martinez, in particular, had given the Bronchos fits in the lane as Logan, though trailing 35-34 after two periods, held a whopping 29-12 advantage on the boards.
When Rachor got her fourth foul midway through the third period and had to sit, Grady began to pull away. Trailing 42-41, the Bronchos went on a 16-4 run that lasted until the first part of the last quarter.
“I think we actually could have (won the game),” Rachor said. “We dominate them in size, I believe that if we get our fouls under control, we have the heart to win it.”
Aerial Verble scored 17 points for Grady and Heather Blackburn added 14. For Logan, the scoring leader was Brittany Cox with 15 while Martinez and Rachor finished with 14 apiece.
Logan girls coach Russel Feerer pointed out that, while his Longhorns did not win, they certainly seem to be getting closer to the perennial district leader.
“That’s something we haven’t had in the past,” said Feerer of the confidence element — against Grady particularly. “We’ve had a tendency to get down 15, 17 points in the first half and have to dig ourselves out of a hole.”
Logan’s boys and girls teams will host Clovis Christian in games tonight. If the Logan girls squad beats the Eagles, it will force a tie with Clovis Christian for second place in district.
Grady 71, Logan 60
Logan (10-13, 5-3) — Brittany Cox 15, Nicole Martinez 14, Raynee Rachor 14, Delani Hazen 7, Megan Frost 4, Tiffany Hankins 4, Amber Humble 2. Totals 26 7-21 60.
Grady (14-8, 8-0) — Aerial Verble 17, Heather Blackburn 14, Payton Provencio 12, Jennifer Franklin 9, Alora Pond 9, Katarina Grau 8. Joli Lindsay 2. Totals 24 21-30 71.
Logan 20 14 11 15 — 60
Grady 20 15 19 17 — 71
3-point FG: G 2 (Grau, Verble); L 1 (Hazen). Fouls: G 21; L 20. Fouled Out: G, Franklin, Blackburn.
Logan 71, Grady 55
Logan (19-4, 8-0) — Jake Abercrombie 29, Austin Whetton 15, Drew Perez 13, Saul Acosta 8, Josh Franco 4, Taylor Smith 2. Totals 30 9-17 71.
Grady (12-11, 6-2) — Colt Grau 15, Brian Blackburn 12, Domingo Diaz 11, Steven Carter 7, Jett Sours 4, Trenton Whitehead 4, Anthony Sanders 2. Totals 18 15-22 55.
Logan 24 9 17 21 — 71
Grady 14 12 9 20 — 55
3-point FG: L 2 (Perez, Whetton); G 4 (Diaz 3, Whitehead). Fouls: L 18; G 18. Fouled Out: L, Acosta.