By Kevin Wilson: QCS Interim Editor
The Tucumcari Rattlers led for only 3:05 of Thursday night’s District 6-2A playoff game against Texico. But it was the 2:35 stretch at the end that counted most for the Rattlers, and a basket that didn’t count when the Wolverines needed it.
Drew White scored a team-high 12 points, and the host Rattlers escaped with a 37-36 victory to qualify for Saturday’s district championship at Santa Rosa and Class 2A regionals next week.
Daniel Scheuler had a game-high 15 points for Texico (15-13), but his final shot on a transition layup was off and the Rattlers survived despite nearly blowing a 5-point lead in the final 20 seconds.
“That was all you can ask for,” Texico coach Richard Luscombe said. “We got a good look. It just didn’t go in.”
Tucumcari (16-10) led 37-32 after Nathan McDonald hit a pair of free throws, but the Rattlers failed to score on their final two chances to put the game on ice.
“I didn’t feel it should have got there in the first place. When (Texico has) got to have two possessions, you (usually feel) pretty good.”
Aaron Vaughan started the comeback with a baseline jumper, then Texico stole the inbounds pass and Courtland Luscombe scored a layup on the ensuing possession.
A missed Tucumcari free throw gave the Wolverines a chance at the win with six seconds to play. Scheuler got open on the length-of-the-court play, but his shot rimmed out. Scheuler grabbed his own rebound, but his putback was waived off.
Luscombe felt that the game really came down to not making the most of possessions when they led throughout most of the game. The Wolverines had 17 turnovers, many unforced.
“You can play a full season and you can be as experienced as you want to be, but when you get into a situation that’s do or die, it’s different,” Luscombe said. “We had some young kids in those situation and it was kind of rough. It was some of the older kids too.”
In a game where neither team could seem to hit 3-pointers — Texico was 1-for-9 and Tucumcari was 1-for-11 — points off turnovers were a key as the Rattlers turned an early 19-12 deficit into a slugfest late.
“We started pressuring the ball, started trapping a little bit,” Span said. “They started throwing the ball away, and that helped us get back into it.”
Tucumcari earns a spot into regionals, regardless of what happens Saturday in Santa Rosa. The winner will host a regional game against the District 7-2A runner-up, and the loser will go on the road to play the 7-2A champ.
Texico looks towards next year, with six varsity players returning. Despite losing six seniors, Luscombe is optimistic.
“There’s a really good nucleus left,” Luscombe said. “We had three sophomore on the floor most of the second half. We’ve got some good sophomores and our junior varsity team only lost one game.”