ALBUQUERQUE — The Logan Longhorns went in to the locker room down seven against a 28-0, top-seeded Cliff squad Saturday night at The Pit. Yes, they had the Cowboys right where they wanted them.
A stifling press and a rejuvenated offense turned the script upside down in the second half, as the Longhorns opened the third on a 16-2 run and never looked back in a 55-45 win to claim the Class 1A boys championship. Rylan Calbert scored 14 to lead three in double figures for Logan (23-6), who rode a bumpy road to their second blue trophy and first since 1998.
Logan Frost scored nine of his 11 points in the pivotal third quarter and pulled down 14 rebounds, while Wyatt Strand added 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in what turned out to be the Longhorns’ easiest victory in their three games in Bernalilo County. Logan twice needed extra time to advance to The Pit — including a 71-67 semifinal win over Fort Sumner when Calbert banked in a late 3 to send it to overtime.
“I did (call the bank),” Calbert said, inspiring laughter from his teammates and his coach. “Nobody heard me, but I did.”
Calbert thought that, plus a season full of comebacks and near-comebacks, gave the Longhorns toughness for Cliff, which had won all 28 games by double figures. So when they went into the locker room down seven? No sweat.
“The only adjustment we made,” Logan coach Arnold Peralez said, “was we decided to press them a little bit, and see if they would get flustered offensively.”
Cliff (28-1) got just one basket in the first 4:40 of a 20-6 third quarter, and never got closer than four the rest of the night as Logan hit on 11-of-15 free throws in the second half.
Longtime Cliff coach Pete Shock credited Logan for its second-half effort, and noted the press had an impact, but he felt the reason Cliff lost was they shot the ball, “horrendously,” both in a first half that could have seen the Cowboys extend their lead and in a third quarter that saw the lead slip away.
Shock, honored at halftime for his recent induction in the National High School Hall of Fame, said he didn’t mind the loss because the problem wasn’t effort, but 16-of-52 shooting and a 2-of-20 night from beyond the arc. He noted something he heard nearly four decades ago in his first season on a bench.
“A player can choose not to go to the boards; a player can choose not to dive on the floor for a loose ball,” Shock said. “There’s never been a player that missed a shot on purpose.”
Brad Neil scored 16 points to lead the Cowboys, who have finished runnerup each of the last two seasons, spoiling what would have been undefeated campaigns. The Cowboys were going for the school’s 10th state championship and third perfect season, all under Shock.
The Longhorns, despite their struggles all season, was built to win a title with half of their roster having played together since third grade.
“We know what the others are going to do, we know where they’re going to be,” Frost said. “It wasn’t really a team,” Calbert added. “It was more of a family.”
Peralez said it was a family he was happy to join after taking over for longtime coach Billy Burns, who coached the Longhorns to a runnerup finish in 2006.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to start in a program like this,” Peralez said. “I’ve coached in four states, and most programs I’ve come to were at rock bottom.”