QCS Senior Writer
The (17-10) (5-0) Logan Longhorns enter into the 1A state tournament as District 3 champions and the six seed pitted against the 11 seed To’hajiilee Warriors.
The (16-8) (11-3) Warriors are coming off Saturday’s tough 72-56 loss to the Magdalena Steers in the District 2 championship game.
The Logan Longhorns beat the Melrose Buffaloes 57-45 Thursday night to claim the District 3 1A championship.
“The Longhorns played a great game,” said Jim Doherty, Buffaloes’ head coach. “Coach Rafael Roybal had those boys ready to play.”
The Longhorns had a rocky start, trailing 12-7 midway through the first period.
Roybal called a time out and told his players, “Calm down. Remember to take time on your shots and let’s pressure them on defense.”
The Longhorns took their coach’s advice and slowly began a comeback. They allowed the Buffaloes to score only two additional points in the first period and held them to five points in the second.
The Buffaloes lead was erased when Logan’s sophomore Brinton Roach hit a three-pointer with eight seconds left, giving the Longhorns a 19-18 lead at the half.
Doherty said the Longhorns did a great job of disrupting the Buffaloes’ zone defense, and did a great job of rotating their defense.
The Buffaloes held onto a marginal lead until late in the third quarter, when the Longhorns went on a scoring run led by senior Dennis Earle who scored 10 of his 15 points in the third period.
Doherty said Earle and Wyatt Strand were explosive in the final two periods, “and we didn’t have an answer for them tonight.”
Strand led the Longhorns in scoring with 20 points, nine of those points were scored in the final period.
“The guys are playing as a team, and they are just now starting to peak,” Strand said of his teammates. The team had to overcome a slow start at the beginning of the season, but now, he said, they are starting to play their best basketball.
Doherty said that with this loss, the Buffaloes will now just have to wait and see how things turn out on Sunday with the state seeding. Doherty expects the Buffaloes will enter the tournament at a strong 8-9 seed.
Roybal said the Longhorns did exceptionally well towards the end of the regular season and in the district tournament. He said he is hopeful the team can carry that energy into the state tournament.
Strand added, “We just have to take it one game at a time.”