By Eric Butler, FNNM Correspondent
A pair of Quay County teams advanced into the semifinal round of the annual EPAC tournament this week as the House girls and San Jon boys each navigated their way through preliminary games. But hopes of further Eastern Plains glory went away Friday night in games played at the Texico High arena.
House lost to Melrose 47-30 in the girls EPAC bracket while Elida eliminated San Jon from title contention by beating the Coyotes 83-62 in the boys side semis.
The girls third-place game today will be contested between House (8-3) and host Texico, which fell 37-30 to Melrose.
“I told them this is the best finish House has ever had, so we’re happy. Last year was one of our better finishes when we won our first game and then lost the next two,” said Cowgirls coach Aprile Lee after the loss to Melrose.
Melrose (8-4) pulled away from House through a torrid-shooting third quarter as the Buffaloes, only ahead 19-17 at intermission, hit seven of their first eight shots from the floor to start the second half. In a period where Melrose outscored the Cowgirls 24 to 11, the Buffs hit ten of their 14 field goal attempts.
“I think this was just kinda one of their lucky games. We’ve watched them play in other games and they didn’t play this well,” Lee said. “But if it’s their night, it’s their night. We played as hard as we could and that’s about the best we could do.”
Sara Lee led House with 17 points while teammate Shannan Lane finished with seven points and 12 rebounds in the loss. Shelby McElroy contributed four points for the Cowgirls, who also got one basket from reserve Brittnee Roybal. Zanessa Dodd paced the victorious Buffaloes with 16 points.
With only seven players available, House was sorely lacking in bench strength. In fact, starter Ana Munoz — though in foul trouble from the outset — was left in until she was called for her game-ending fifth midway through the third quarter.
“I think we just got wore out. I mean, their bench was longer and they subbed in a lot while we had to play with the same five over and over,” said Lane, who did notice how Melrose rotated nine players. “It must be nice having a bench. I guess we need to start running a lot more.”
The boys semifinal between San Jon (5-5) and Elida (13-2) was a rematch from a regular season victory for the visiting Tigers in San Jon.
From that contest, the Coyotes knew a big key to stopping Elida was their ability to shut off the Tigers’ 3-point offensive strikes. But Elida had a couple of additional outside shooting options, according to coach Darrel Chenault, whose team popped in nine treys — from five different players.
“We got hot there and (Tom) Sullivan, he’s played with a broken hand all year long. He’s a phenomenal shooter, but this is the first time he’s played without a cast,” said Chenault of one player — who stroked a pair of 3-pointers. “And our other big kid (Caleb Widner, who also hit two), he’s capable of hitting the three-point shot and they just left him wide open.”
San Jon, which cut a 19-point second quarter deficit down to 12 in the fourth before Elida pulled away for good through foul shots, was led by Danny Shetter’s 19 points while Richard Vasquez and Tyce Foster added 15 and 10 respectively. Albert Hood and Will McEntire also scored eight each for the Coyotes.
“They knocked us out all night with those three-pointers and they did that to us in San Jon too,” Coyotes coach Jeremy Stoner said. “You figure they’ll miss one once in awhile, but they were hitting them pretty good. When they’re on, they’re on.”