Rattlers fall against Laguna


December 5, 2018

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari's TJ Lampkin puts up a shot against Laguna Acoma as Casey Carter, right, gets ready for a possible rebound Friday at the Snake Pit.

Tucumcari could point the blame to several things that led to a 69-63 season-opening loss Friday to Laguna Acoma at the Snake Pit - turnovers, foul trouble, shooting dry spells and a key ball handler who suffered an apparent concussion.

But the big one turned out to be free throws - namely, not making them. The visiting Hawks converted 25 of 33 foul shots, or 76 percent. The Rattlers made 20 of 40 foul shots, or just 50 percent.

"That's the game right there," Tucumcari coach John Span said. "We had our chances."

Laguna Acoma coach George Waquie said free throws are something he takes seriously, and that paid off Friday.

"It's something we work on in practice - with loud music, after push-ups, after sit-ups - anything to put them in a high-stress situation," he said. "These kids are on the reservation and are used to running, but they're not used to push-ups and sit-ups."

Andre Thompson led the Hawks with 17 points and Jayden Villegos added 15.

For Tucumcari, TJ Lampkin led a balanced attack with 14 points. Josh Chavez added 13 points and Casey Carter 12.

The Rattlers also committed 18 turnovers and found several players in foul trouble.

"I needed kids on the floor who make good decisions," Span said. "One of my players had two fouls in less than three minutes. That's the kind of stuff you can't do. That reaching, whether you're fouling or not, the officials are going to call that."

Laguna Acoma ran into a different sort of foul trouble - technical fouls. The Hawks were whistled for five of them, and one player was ejected. Waquie also was ejected in the second quarter for disputing the possession arrow at the scorer's table.

"I should have known better and let it go," Waquie said after the game about the possession-arrow spat. "Live and learn."

Both teams showed rust from less than two weeks between the first official practice and the first game. Tucumcari didn't score its first field goal until halfway through the first quarter, and Laguna Acoma missed easy shots. But the Hawks made more of them, taking a 12-7 lead they never would relinquish.

The closest the Rattlers came was after a series of technical-foul shots brought them to 14-13 in the second period. They trailed just 26-22 at halftime.

The Hawks went on a 14-3 run in the third quarter to seize a 40-25 lead. During that span, one of Tucumcari's chief ball handlers, Matthew Lopez, accidentally bumped heads with a teammate, then hit his head hard on the floor after falling. Clearly woozy, he was helped off the floor to the locker room and didn't return. Span said he suffered a likely concussion.

The Rattlers managed a scoring run of their own in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to 63-59 with less than two minutes left.

Carter drained a 3-pointer with less than a minute left to tighten the game further, 65-63.

The Hawks made two free throws to make it 67-63, and Carter found his shot while driving in the lane blocked during the waning seconds.


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