Rattlers hope to pull huge upset over Huskies

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

As the Tucumcari Rattlers make their first trip to the state basketball tournament in 16 years, they go with the mindset that people don’t expect them to be there very long.

Tucumcari (18-11), the Class 2A Region C runner-up, is the last seed of eight in the tournament. The Rattlers will face top-seeded Hope Christian (24-5) in today’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal game at Cibola High School.

Though the Rattlers aren’t happy to get the last seed, they figure they just have to prove people wrong.

“We don’t have anything to lose,” Rattler coach John Span said. “They’re the No. 1 seed — they’re expected to win

“We’re going to try to win. We’re not looking to just go and be happy we’re in it.”

Rattler post Drew White said the goal is a state championship, so facing the Huskies in the quarterfinals wouldn’t be any harder than facing them in the title game.

“The way I see it, we’ve got to play them sometime,” said White, a 6-foot-2 junior. “If we beat them now, we get to play a No. 4 or 5 seed (for a chance to be in the state-title game).”

Today’s winner will face fourth-seeded Navajo Pine (23-5) or Pecos (15-14), who play immediately following the Rattlers game. The semifinal is set for 8 a.m. Friday at The Pit in Albuquerque, and the 2A title game is 8 a.m. Saturday at The Pit.

Today’s other Class 2A quarterfinal matchups, held at Eldorado High School. feature Santa Rosa and Rehoboth (4 p.m.) and Mesa Vista against Tularosa (7 p.m.).

The Huskies are No. 1 for a reason, Span said. The inside-outside game of Zach Spangler and Adam Keith is tough, and Span said they make teams pay for double-teaming.

“They shoot the ball really well from the outside,” Span said. “(They hit) NBA 3’s, so you’ve got to get out there.”

Though he didn’t want to single out specific teams, Span said numerous teams have looked unbeatable going into the tournament, but never finished the task.

The Rattlers are hoping they can add Hope Christian to that list, even though most of the current team members weren’t alive when the Rattlers last played in the state tournament.

“It (the tournament absence) really didn’t hit me right away,” White said. “But now we can’t let up. It’s do or die.”

The Logan Longhorns (24-4), fresh off their Class 1A Region A championship, enter the Class 1A tournament as the third seed. The Longhorns face Quemado in a 5 p.m. game today at Del Norte High School. The winner will face either Springer or Magdalena in an 8:30 p.m. Thursday semifinal, also at Del Norte.

The 1A state championship is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at The Pit.