State play heats up for area basketball

Thomas Garcia

The 1A Longhorns, Lady Longhorns and 2A Rattlers will enter the first round of the state basketball tournament as the San Jon Coyotes and Lady Coyotes continue with district 2B play.

Both Longhorns teams are on the road this week as they compete in the first round of the 1A state tournament.

The fifteenth-seed Lady Longhorns will play at 7 p.m., Friday at second-seed Tatum.

“We played well with them in EPAC and I think we have a good chance to beat them,” said Lady Longhorns coach Clair Rachor.

Rachor said the last time these teams met, foul trouble played a part in the loss.

“We need to play smart and not commit the needless fouls,” Rachor said. “However, we cannot give up the easy transitional baskets. Our defense will still have to play aggressive.”

The ninth-seed Longhorns will play at 7 p.m. against eighth-seed Menaul.

“Menaul is a well coached team which will match up well with us,” said Longhorns coach Billy Burns.

Burns said both teams have great post players and outside shooters and should even out on the floor.

“The important thing is to play one game at a time,” Burns said. “We are going to focus on beating Menaul.”

At this time the seventh-seed Tucumcari Rattlers are the only team to host a first-round state tournament game. At 4 p.m. Saturday the Rattlers will play the tenth-seed Navajo Pine Warriors at the Snake Pit.

“We are very fortunate and privileged to host a first round game,” said Rattlers coach John Span.

The Rattlers will enter the state tournament with a huge momentum swing having claimed their first district 4-2A title since 1990 with a 54-45 win over their longtime rivals, the Santa Rosa Lions.

The Rattlers maintained a double-digit lead over the Lions until late in the final period. Three crucial turnovers on Rattlers’ inbound passes led to six quick points for the Lions.

“Those turnovers hurt us and put them back in the game,” Span said.

Span said he wanted to keep the floor spread and was not employing a stall tactic to run down the clock.

“The Lions kept meeting us up top and playing the press,” Span said. “If they would have given us the open look, we would have taken it.”

A well-timed three-pointer by Rattler senior Jantzen Darnell helped keep the Rattlers ahead. Darnell was 4-6 from beyond the arch.

“It was just my night to be on,” Darnell said.

With two minutes left in the game, the Lions had to resort to fouling to stop the clock. However this tactic only added to the Rattlers’ lead as they made 9-10 free throws in the final minutes of the game.

“It has been a long time coming,” senior Rattler Dalton Wood said.

“It feels awesome being able to claim a district championship in front of a home crowd,” said senior Jakus Martinez.

San Jon

The San Jon Coyotes will play on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the district 2B championship, while the Lady Coyotes await 2B state seeding following Monday night’s 46-32 loss to Mosquero.

A 69-59 win over Mosquero on Feb. 26 moved the Coyotes to 8-0 in district 2B standings, giving them a break in play with a chance to get their players healthy.

“It was a tough game. We had a couple of injuries that gave Mosquero a stronger look,” said Coyotes head coach Tommy Thompson.

During that game the Coyotes’ 14-point lead was knocked down by the Pirates’ three-point shooting. The Pirates made eight of them in the second half.

“They are that team,” Thomspon said. “When they get on a streak with those three-pointers it is hard to shut them down.”

The Coyotes offense was led by Chase Thompson with 31 points, Jacob Benally with 20 points and Bryan Foust, who claimed 17 points.

“When they were closing the gap we knew we just needed to play our game,” Chase said. “We had some turnovers which hurt us and led to six quick points.”