After more than a decade, the Lady Rattlers advanced past the first round of the District 4-2A playoffs by beating their rival Santa Rosa Lady Lions 40-30 Monday night at the Snake Pit.
“I am so proud of these girls,” Lady Rattlers head coach Gary Hittson said. “It has been a long time coming. It took everything I had to hold back my tears.”
There is certainly no love lost between third seed Tucumcari and fourth seed Santa Rosa when it comes to high school sports. For as long as anyone can remember, these two teams have been rivals in all they do.
“I am very happy for Gary,” said Lady Lions head coach Jimmy Chavez. “I have been where he has in years past and now it is their turn. I hope they win and continue to play in the post season.”
The game was decided in the second period as the Lady Rattlers went on a 20-5 scoring run against the Lady Lions.
Chavez said he wanted to take away the perimeter from the Lady Rattlers after Laura Fought made four three-pointers during Saturday night’s game.
“We knew we had to take away the outside from Fought and Lori Harmon, but did not count on Esperanza Moncayo to step up and come out firing,” Chavez said.
Hittson said he knew after Saturday’s game the Lady Lions would look to limiting Harmon’s and Fought’s open shots from the outside.
“Espy, Michelle and Lizzy really stepped it up underneath the goal,” Hittson said. “They were aggressive and knew they needed to attack the goal.”
Moncayo had 17 points. She scored seven field goals and a three-pointer in the second period.
“It has been my dream to make a three-pointer,” Moncayo said. “I have been practicing for that shot and I finally made it tonight when it counted the most.”
In the second period, both the Lady Rattlers and Lady Lions were in foul trouble, sending each other to the line for free throws which had the potential to change the game.
“We were 50 percent from the line,” Chavez said. “Normally that is good and can help you win the game, but tonight was not one of those nights.”
Hittson said he told the girls to play aggressive but smart as his starters each had three or more fouls.
“I told them not to reach and play defense with their feet,” Hittson said.
As the clock winded down in the final period, Fought and Harmon realized they were about to accomplish a dream they had been chasing for several years.
“I just kept thinking, ‘We have to score and stay ahead we can not let down the town again,’” Fought said. “Nothing else mattered. We needed to win.”
Harmon said her team has been seen as the joke of the district for too long.
“They have always looked past us,” Harmon said. “It was not till the very end of the game that it hit me. We finally did it. We beat Santa Rosa and are moving on.”
With the win, the Lady Rattlers will now face the Clayton Lady Yellowjackets for the opportunity to face Texico on Friday for the district 4-2A championship and a state tournament appearance.
“We are going to focus on Clayton,” Hittson said. “One game at a time, lets take care of business Wednesday night and worry about everything else on Thursday.”
The Lady Rattlers will play at 6 p.m., Wednesday at Clayton.
The first seed Rattlers will play at 6 p.m. Saturday for the district 4-2A championship at the Snake Pit.
On Tuesday, third seed Clayton and fourth seed Texico. Clayton won that gaem and will play second seed Santa Rosa at 6 p.m., on Thursday. The winner will play the Rattlers on Saturday.
The second seeded Logan Longhorns routed the third seeded Melrose Buffaloes 65-25 Tuesday night at Logan.
“Now we move on to Fort Sumner to play for the district championship,” said Longhorns head coach Billy Burns.
The clock ran much of the second half as the 35-point-run clock rule was in effect. Once the game was well within hand, the Longhorns rotated their bench, giving each player some time on the court.
The new players took to the court full of zeal as they could sense the victory with the crowd cheering them on.
The Buffaloes did not give up despite the double-digit gap and continued to play and press the Longhorns through the second half.
Tuesday night’s district 3-1A playoff game started slow with an 11-7 lead held by the Longhorns. Their starting five were off the mark for the first period.
However, in the second period the Longhorns found their game, going on a 21-7 point run. They would continue that run with a similar 21-2 point run in the third period.
The Longhorns offense was led by Rylan Calbert: 1, 4, 6-6, Andy Rhinestine: 3, 0, 4-7 and Tanner Sorrels: 4, 0, 1-2.
The Longhorns will play at 7 p.m., Thursday at Fort Sumner.
The third seeded Lady Longhorns will play Wednesday at 7 p.m., against the second seeded Lady Buffaloes at Melrose.