When you grow up in Cimarron and you’re last name is Coca, it’s a given that you’ll end up wearing the red and white uniform on an athletic field.
Meet Whitley Coca, the latest member of the Coca clan of gym rats.
The tenacious senior and versatile playmaker scored 29 points in her final high school game to rally the Rams to a 58-53 win over Des Moines in the championship game.
``It’s kind of expected. It’s a good thing,’’ said Coca of her family’s deep roots in Cimarron athletics. ``My whole family has played sports and all of them have been pretty good.’’
Coca’s dad, Billy, played for Cimarron, as have countless cousins and uncles. Whitley made them all proud on championship Saturday.
It was Whitley’s four free throws in the game’s final 20 seconds that clinched Cimarron’s third state championship in the last four years. The Cimarron girls posted back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 and now own four titles.
Des Moines and Cimarron met five times in the 2008-09 season and Cimarron won all five games. But the Lady Demons led through much of the championship game before the Rams took the lead for good late in the fourth quarter.
With both school located in New Mexico’s northeast corner, both had a long trip to Albuquerque. Cimarron senior Brooke Knox said the Rams expected the district rivals to meet again.
`We all had a feeling after the district championship that we’d meet them here. But it was a different atmosphere in The Pit.’’
A free throw by Des Moines junior Amaris Newkirk with 1:53 left gave the Lady Demons a 53-50 lead. Coca then hit a short jumper in the lane. Des Moines missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation and after a steal by Cimarron’s Lacy Harris, Knox hit two free throws with 35 seconds left to put the Rams up 54-53.
Des Moines junior Myra Newkirk missed two free throws with 26.3 seconds left. The Rams made sure the ball was in Coca’s hands in the final minute and forced to foul, Des Moines sent the Cimarron leader to the line twice. She hit all four free throws.
``We had our chances,’’ said Des Moines coach Lyndel Bonds. ``We got to the free throw line and couldn’t convert. We had some crucial turnovers. Sometimes the ball bounces the other way.’’
Amaris Newkirk led the Lady Demons with 16 points. Freshman Cassidy Doherty scored 11, including a trio of 3-pointers, and Myra Newkirk had 10 points.
Des Moines, which won four state championships from 1999 to 2004, finished the season with a record of 20-9.
Cimarron finished 26-1 under first-year head coach Patricia LeDoux. LeDoux took over the head coaching job after a long run as an assistant at the school.