Elida junior Cade Cathy grabs the ball out of the air during Elida’s game against Dora Saturday at EPAC.
Elida has been known for a proficient offensive attack, but it was defense that made the difference for the Tigers in the championship of the EPAC boys basketball tournament.
On Saturday in Portales, the unbeaten Tigers limited rival Dora (8-4) to only four points in the second quarter and built up a 20-point lead. Although they had to withstand one major Coyotes’ comeback attempt, the Tigers made the early cushion stand up for a 68-49 victory at Greyhound Arena.
The win gave Elida’s boys back-to-back EPAC titles.
"Our dream was to someday come in here and win one at Eastern,” Elida coach Darrell Chenault said. “Last year, we got a start (at Texico) and it’s just a great feeling.”
Trenton Chenault led the victors with 22 points. Elida also got 21 from Ever Varela and 13 from Ryan Best.
Leading just 17-16, the Tigers started the second quarter with a 7-0 run. Dora’s only points in the second quarter were four successful free throw attempts.
“We had a good look at them last night when they played Texico,” Chenault said of the Coyotes. “They love to penetrate and kick out, so we told everybody they had to play one-on-one basketball. Just picture in your mind that you’re out there by yourself playing one-on-one. Stop your man and everybody do your job.”
Dora, led by 13 points from Jeremy Butler and 10 apiece from Lathan Lieb and Kyler Smith, turned up the defensive pressure itself in the third quarter and rattled off 11 straight points to head into the fourth down 47-36.
After a Tigers bucket, the Coyotes scored six more to trim the margin to six points.
“I thought the kids did come out and increase the defensive intensity in the second half and that got us back in the game,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “But we hit a little lull there and we dropped off.”
With 6:45 left in the game, a bucket by Cade Cathey pushed the lead back to eight. It was also the start of a 15-1 answer run for Elida that secured the victory.
That was Cathey’s only bucket of the game, but the Tigers junior also pulled down 10 rebounds. Trenton Chenault, although only 5-foot-6, also snuck in to snag eight boards.
The championship was a rematch of a state Class 1A semifinal won last year by Dora, which went on to lose to Gateway Christian in the state title game.
"The Dora-Elida rivalry’s being going on for 50 years or however long they've been around,” Darrell Chenault said. “Both schools know each other and both have family on both sides.
“It brings more intensity to it when it’s like that, but there was no thoughts about last year, really.”
His son, after the game, knew the Elida win just meant the intensity will go up for Dora when the two teams meet in district.
“We’ll have to play harder the next time, because they’ll want to beat us even more,” Trenton Chenault said.