Rattlers win third straight
January 22, 2020
The Tucumcari boys basketball team won its third straight game and helped give its fans a happy Homecoming with a commanding 83-61 win Friday over Clayton.
Jesus Ramos led a balanced Rattler scoring attack with 26 points, including a 15-of-20 performance from the free-throw line. Andrew Henderson-Clark added 20, mostly after offensive rebounds. Robbie Hartmann and Alexander Lujan each scored 13 as Tucumcari improved to 6-8. The game at a crowded Snake Pit was rescheduled from Thursday because of icy weather.
Tucumcari coach John Span noted his team's more-balanced scoring in recent weeks is a good trend.
"If we can do that, that's huge," he said. "We've got to have guys who can score."
Span never would renounce a victory, but he wasn't all pleased with his team's performance - especially with three upcoming games against opponents ranked in the top five, including two No. 1s.
"We were fortunate, but we have to cut down on the turnovers," he said. "The passes we made, we just have to clean it up."
Span also knocked his team missing easy baskets under the rim and its shaky free-throw shooting (21-of-35).
"Those are things we have to do if we're going to compete in district," he said. Tucumcari's first district game is at New Mexico Military Institute on Feb. 4.
Meanwhile, Clayton (5-9) contended with its own problems. The Yellowjackets also committed turnovers, shot a mediocre 12-of-21 from the foul line and were whistled for two technical fouls.
"They were really defending the basket," Clayton coach Richard Hidalgo said of Tucumcari. "Even on our layups, they really challenged us. But the big thing was we had way too many turnovers tonight in critical spots that really hurt us. That's a challenge we've been working on all year."
For all of Tucumcari's problems during the game, Span couldn't fault his team's effort.
"I told my kids, 'You have to match their intensity,'" he said. "His kids always play hard. If you play hard, you always have a chance to win."
Clayton briefly took a 23-19 lead midway through the second period with two straight 3-pointers. But Tucumcari went on a 17-4 to finish the rest of the period for a 36-27 lead at intermission.
The Rattlers' advantage ballooned to more than 20 points in the third quarter with a 16-5 scoring run.
The Yellowjackets rallied a bit, reducing Tucumcari's lead to 70-56 midway through the fourth quarter. The Rattlers finished off their opponents with a 13-3 run.
Rylan Ruf led the Yellowjackets with 17 points.
Pecos 79, Tucumcari 38
Thirty turnovers proved fatal to the Rattlers in a 79-38 loss Saturday at Pecos, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and winners of three consecutive state titles.
Ball security has been a season-long problem for Tucumcari, and Span's worst fears were realized against the Panthers.
"We couldn't handle their pressure," Span said. "We don't have much depth with ball handlers.
Ramos scored 24 points to lead the Rattlers. Henderson-Clark added 10.
Pecos improved to 16-1. The Panthers' only loss was against Santa Fe, a ranked team in Class 5A.