BERNALILLO — Springer is no longer 32 minutes of run-and-gun offense, nightmare press on defense. A few minutes of it, however, put the Red Devils back in the boys state Class 1A semifinals.
Posts Leonard Arias and Eric Caldwell each scored 14, helping offset a 26-point night from Melrose’s Clint Barnard in a 70-62 victory over the Buffaloes in Wednesday’s 1A quarterfinal at Bernalillo High School.
Guard Isaiah DeHerrera led the Red Devils (25-3) with 18 points, including seven in the final 3:31 to seal the win. Last season’s Class 1A runnerup heads to the Santa Ana Star Center Thursday for an 8:15 p.m. matchup with Tatum, which got past Gallup Catholic 64-57.
“We’re battle-tested, so to speak,” Springer coach Jimmy Apodaca said. “We did it last year, we’ve done it this year in district.”
They did it one more time with a 10-2 run to start the final period, fueled by three Melrose turnovers on its first four possessions of the period.
“We beat ourselves tonight,” Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said. “They’re a good team, but we had way too many turnovers.”
The Buffaloes (17-9), who trailed by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, cut the margin to five with 1:48 to play. But DeHerrera was fouled on a 3-point attempt, and hit all three from the line to keep Melrose at bay.
Though Springer relied plenty on the 6-foot-6 Caldwell for interior defense, the Red Devils picked their spots to pressure the Buffaloes’ guards for transition buckets and turnovers in the backcourt.
Apodaca loves to play the run-and-gun style, but said it’s best used in a 1-2 punch with this year’s Red Devils squad -- as opposed to last season, when that style alone got an undersized team within inches of a Class 1A title against Fort Sumner.
“We press in spots,” Apodaca said. “We’re more a complete team.
“We can pound the ball inside. Our big guys are more composed. It really complements our guards.”
Sammy Lawrence added 19 points for the Buffaloes, hitting five 3-pointers.
“I thought the kids played really well,” Roybal said. “Everyone played hard, never gave up.”