RIO RANCHO — Dora’s boys actually did send Springer’s players into tears after a Class 1A semifinal Thursday night at Santa Ana Star Center.
But it wasn’t quite the way the Coyotes would have liked it.
Instead of storming back from a 24-point deficit, and only making the Red Devils recall how they lost to Dora the last two seasons in the last seconds of playoff games, the Coyotes would have much preferred a victory.
As it turned out, Springer pulled off an 86-83 victory when sophomore guard Isaiah De Herrera bombed in a 3-pointer with four seconds left for the victory.
“The last two years, we lost to Dora in the last 10 seconds,” said Red Devils coach Jimmy Apodaca while his players choked back tears of relief next to him. “It was almost deja vu.”
Dora (23-6) had one last chance after De Herrera’s trey. At the buzzer, Jeremy Butler’s 3-point try from the right baseline was just off and the Red Devils swarmed the court in celebration.
“These kids have fought and fought and fought all year,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “I knew if these kids came back, they would put themselves in a position to win.”
Butler finished with 30 points while Lathan Leib had 28 for the Coyotes.
“Jeremy’s an unbelievable offensive-minded ballplayer and he just found ways to dig down and get to the rim,” Thatcher said. “I’ve watched him shoot a million shots and his feet weren’t set as good as we would’ve liked — or it would’ve went in.”
Springer (27-2), led by 33 points from Johnny Chaves, pounced on Dora at the start of the game and forced the Coyotes into eight first-quarter turnovers. That helped translate into a 24-13 advantage after the opening period.
In the second stanza, the Red Devils put together an 18-2 run to go ahead 42-18.
“When we were down 20, I said to myself that I didn’t want to go out in a losing effort in this game,” Butler said. “I guess we came out overconfident. But we really wanted to win; we really thought we could beat them.”
By intermission, Dora had chopped the lead to 18. One period later, the margin was still the same, but the Coyotes started the fourth quarter by scoring 10 of the first 11 points.
The Red Devils’ insistence on shooting 3-pointers in the late stages helped Dora’s comeback efforts. In the last five minutes, while the lead dwindled from 12 to zero, Springer missed on six long-range attempts.
The last one went in, however, much to the dismay of the Coyotes.
“I’m not proud of our efforts in the first half, but in the second half for sure,” said Dora senior Kyler Smith, who finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds. “It was just a fifty-fifty deal there at the end. No difference between the winning team and the losing team — a three-point game with two good teams just going at it."