ALBUQUERQUE — Melrose girls coach Toby Bostwick expected to have a competitive team this season, but even he's a little surprised the fifth-seeded Lady Buffaloes are in position to defend their Class 1A state title.
"If you'd have told me at (the) EPAC (tournament in early January) that we'd be in the state finals, I'd have probably laughed at you," he said Friday as his team prepared for today's noon championship game at The Pit.
Melrose Buffalo Reagan Carthel shoots a three point shot in the second quarter of the Buffaloes semi-final game against the Tatum Coyotes Thursday afternoon at Bernalillo High School.
Perhaps even more surprising is his team's opponent, sixth-seeded District 3-1A rival Logan (21-8).
The Lady Buffs (17-14), coming in on an eight-game winning streak, and the Lady Longhorns took out the top two seeds in Thursday's semis, Melrose beating No. 1 Tatum 43-39 in a rematch of last year's 1A final, while Logan edged second-seeded Cliff 63-62.
The teams split two regular-season meetings, each winning on the other's home court, before Melrose notched a 54-40 in the district tournament championship.
"They're very familiar teams," Bostwick said of the two combatants. "In fact, it's been kind of weird — we've pretty much played familiar teams the whole tournament."
Melrose's winning streak generally coincides with the return to health of sophomore guard Caley Barnard, who suffered a vertabrae injury in a preseason scrimmage and missed about half the season.
"She tried to play in the (season-opening) Texico tournament, and we realized something was wrong," Bostwick said. "I would say she's getting close (to 100 percent health).
"It's been a rough season (with injuries). I'd say we've been healthy for about the last three weeks."
Bostwick said the player who makes the Lady Longhorns go is 5-foot-5 senior guard Whitney Cordova, who scored 18 points in the win over Cliff.
"She's an amazing point guard," Bostwick said. "She's not very big, but she's faster than lightning and she can handle the ball, pass the ball, shoot the ball."
No. 5 Melrose (17-14) vs. No. 6 Logan (21-7)
What: Class 1A state championship game
When: Noon Saturday
Where: The Pit in Albuquerque
State titles: Melrose (5) 1976, 1982, 1983, 1984, 2012. Logan (1) 1980