By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE — Tucumcari’s first visit to The Pit floor didn’t exactly go as planned.
Mesilla Valley junior guard Trey Correa made sure of it.
Correa hit three 3-pointers in the first two-plus minutes and went 6-for-7 from long range in the opening half, helping the defending Class 2A champion Sonblazers cruise to a 69-42 win in Saturday night’s championship game.
Correa hit his final 3-pointer with 4:17 left in the half and didn’t score again, but by that time the Sonblazers (20-11) held a 33-11 lead.
“We were hot (early),” Mesilla Valley coach Terry Adler said. “Trey Correa was out of his mind on 3s, which he’s capable of.”’
The seventh-seeded Rattlers (19-10), playing in a state final for the first time in 28 years, were already concerned about being outsized at most positions. Correa’s shooting put them in a hole from which they couldn’t escape.
Correa missed his final four shots, finishing with 18 points. Junior guard Garrett Hendron led Messilla Valley with 23 points, including 14 in a third quarter in which the Sonblazers opened a 30-point lead, while 6-foot-4 senior center Sean Harris added 16.
Hendron, who went 9-for-11 from the floor, also had team highs with seven rebounds and five assists.
“We noticed they were smaller than us, so he wanted to pound it inside,” Hendron said of the Sonblazers’ strategy coming in.
Meantime, the Rattlers struggled on offense all night, shooting 29 percent (15-of-52) and getting all but seven of their points from junior forward Travis Garcia (18) and senior forward Dalton Wood (17). Tucumcari made just 4-of-25 from 3-point range.
“They applied a lot of (defensive) pressure, but we had some good open looks,” said Rattlers coach John Span, whose team beat No. 2 Mora in the quarterfinals and sixth-seeded Mesa Vista in the semifinals. “You can’t have two guys scoring in double figures and (everybody else) scoring seven points.”
Wood had a double-double with 12 rebounds, but picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and spent time on the bench.
“It was hard to be as aggressive as I’d like to be,” Wood said of the fouls. “I had to tone it down a little, but I still tried to play as aggressive as I could.”
Adler said this title was probably more satisfying than last year’s, when the Sonblazers edged Tularosa 55-52 to cap a 30-1 season.
“I’ll be honest, this one means a lot more to me,” Adler said. “Even though my son played on last year’s team and they were very talented, this one means more because we came so far.”