Berry Stinnett and the Fort Sumner Foxes will always remember their first. The Springer Red Devils may never forget their third.
The last of Jesus Urquijo's three free throws rimmed out with :00 on the clock, and the Fort Sumner Foxes escaped The Pit Saturday night with a 67-66 victory over Springer for the school's first state basketball championship.
"I was just praying he'd miss one," said senior post Berry Stinnett, who scored 22 points and shouted, "First team ever," as he ran up to the locker room clutching the blue trophy, flanked by his teammates.
Barrett Williamson, who played key minutes with Stinnett in foul trouble, had the team's biggest rollercoaster ride on Bob King Court. His steal and ensuing free throw put Fort Sumner up 67-64 with :05 to play. But his foul on Urquijo's desperation 3-point attempt as the horn sounded had him and his Fox teammates hoping Urqujio wouldn't defy the odds.
"I was saying, 'I hope he misses one,'" Fort Sumner coach John Wooton said, "because I don't think we can survive overtime."
Urquijo, alone at the stripe, pumped his fists after swishing the first two, but after his final attempt clanged left, he collapsed to the floor and the Foxes flooded it.
Red Devils coach Jimmy Apodaca, a 1997 Springer graduate, told his senior point guard he had nothing to be ashamed of.
"That's a great thing Jesus did hitting two out of three,'' said Apodaca. "I'm sure there are some collegians and even NBA players that wouldn't have hit the first."
Rawley Stallard added 21 for the Foxes, who never trailed in the second half and kept the second-seeded Red Devils (27-3) off balance with a mix of press-breaking layups from Stallard and post-up buckets in the halfcourt from Stinnett.
"They slowed us down," said Apodaca, whose team hit the century mark five times this season by throwing patience out the window and encouraging quick passes and quicker shots.
"We played a lot of their game as we got our of our game."
The Foxes (19-9), perennial contenders in state track and field, savored the opportunity to play at Springer's run-and-gun pace.
"We're always looking to run," Wooton said. "We don't push it as much as we'd like, maybe because our district doesn't push it.
"With their press, once we got past the first wave, we've got good finishers."
The Foxes' basketball program has fallen well short of the arguably unfair standards set by its football program, which has won nine championships since 1995. But the Foxes, who had only one tournament game victory since 1980, knocked off fourth-seeded Tatum, top-seeded defending champ Cliff and the second-seeded Red Devils to make Wooton's second stint as Fort Sumner's coach special.
"They had third-place games back in those days," said Wooton, whose 1977 squad face McCurdy for the green trophy. "I won that game, so I'm undefeated in The Pit."