Fort Sumner, Grady have eyes on title

Farwell’s Danielle Cargile, right, saves the ball inbounds past Lazbuddie’s Chelsee Nichols during the second half of their game earlier this month in Farwell. Farwell defeated Lazbuddie 51-41. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

The Fort Sumner girls captured the state Class 1A track and field title last spring. The Vixens added the volleyball title two weeks ago and are now turning their thoughts toward the basketball court, where they return their top six players from last year’s state semifinalist team.

Fort Sumner coach Brian Fortner is optimistic the Vixens can take another run at a title.

With four starters back from a state runnerup finish, Grady could also have a say in who wins state.

Grady coach Alicia Rush said her team’s experience in big games and chemistry on the floor will make up for a lack of depth.

At Clovis Christian, veteran coach Max Kralicek brings back nearly all of last year’s team that went 5-16. Kralicek said the Lady Eagles will try to run and press to raise last year’s scoring average from the high 20s.

Melrose will also looked to push the tempo under first-year coach Jason Lee, who takes over the Lady Buffaloes’ program after three years at House.

They’ll need to pick up the new system in a hurry as Melrose plays a couple of Class 2A schools before the district season starts.

“Our schedule’s brutal,” Lee said. “Good teams are going to show you where your deficiencies are and we’re going to learn real quick, but they also make you better.”
Texico’s brutal games are in district.

Second-year coach Buddy Little called District 6-2A “probably the toughest district in state” with Clayton and Santa Rosa. Texico lost three starters, but Little said they’re deeper than last year, especially with the return of guard Ashley Kidd, who missed most of last year with a knee injury.

Across the state line, third-year coach Farwell coach Doug Boyd believes his team’s athleticism and height in the post will overcome inexperience if develop some confidence before district.

“If we do, we have a chance to be just as good or better as last year’s team,” Boyd said.

Both Bovina and Muleshoe have to replace key graduated seniors.

The Fillies bring back three seniors from last year’s 7-13 team, but lost all-district guard senior Amanda Martinez. Second-year coach Tony Epps said this will be a rebuilding year, so his team needs to keep their effort up if the scoreboard goes against them.

At Muleshoe, the Lady Mules will be hard-pressed to replace all-state Muleshoe center Sara Benham, who led the team to a 31-6 record an appearance in the Class 3A regional finals.

Lady Mules coach Shana Simms said the focus will defense. Simms believes the experience her team gained last year in the playoffs should also help.

Bovina
2003-04 record:
7-13, 2-8 District 3-1A.
Coach: Tony Epps, 2nd season, 7-13
Returning starters: Jessica Bachicha P, So., Isabel Guevara PG, Sr., Jr., Irma Rocha G, Jr.
Key losses: Flora Sanchez P, Sandra Perez P, Amanda Martinez G
Strengths: Speed, defense
Weaknesses: Size, depth
Keys to success: The Fillies can’t get discouraged in another rebuilding year and must strive to improve every time they hit the court.
Quotable: “They won state back ing the 50s, you may have to go back that far.” — Epps on the last time the Fillies got out of district.

Clovis Christian
2003-04 record:
5-16, 1-9 District 4-1A
Coach: Max Kralicek, 5th season, 50-48 at CC, 386-173 overall
Returning starters: Tasha Daale F, Jr., G Sam Barnett G, Jr., Tiffani Medeiros F, Jr., Molli Peterson G, Jr.
Key losses: Rachel Daale, C
Strengths: Experience, depth
Weaknesses: Scoring, ball handling
Keys to success: They need to score more points than last year, when they had 28-30 per game.
Notable: This is the first year Clovis Christian is eligible for the district tournament.

Farwell
2003-04 record:
16-15, 7-3 District 3-1A. The Lady Blue lost to Smyer 39-36 in first round of regionals.
Coach: Doug Boyd, 3rd
Returning starters: None
Key losses: Hailey Grimes PG, Chelsea Meyer C, Nikki Gober PF.
Strengths: Post play, athleticism, leadership
Weaknesses: Inexperience
Keys to success: With no starters returning, the Lady Blue must overcome their inexperience and develop confidence before district play.
Quotable: “I think we have the ability to suprise some people.” — Boyd
Notable: Julie Castillo, Amanda Martin and Salida Edwards will compete for the final guard starting position.

Fort Sumner
2003-04 record:
26-5, 10-0 District 3-1A. Lost to Des Moines 42-39 in state semifinals.
Coach: Brian Fortner, 2nd season, 25-6.
Returning starters: Kelly Fortner Sr., G-F, Sandy Fortner Sr., G, Leslie Wood, PG, Sr., Tobea Patterson, F-P, Sr., Lindsay Mansell, F Jr., Kayla Britain Sr., F-P
Key losses: Shannon Wilson, F
Strengths: Speed, ball handling ability
Weaknesses: Health is a concern. Kelly Fortner, Wood and Laural Herrera have all had surgery on one or both of their knees. Brian Fortner said all of them are back to 100 percent.
Keys to success: The Vixens need to utilize their athletic ability, stay healthy and continue to imrpove on their outside shooting, which was a problem at times last year.
Quotable: “The only thing we don’t have is a 6-3 post.” — Brian Fortner on the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Grady
2003-04 record:
27-5, 8-0 District 4-A champ, lost to Des Moines 51-36 in championship
Coach: Alicia Rush, 7th season, 102-51
Returning starters: Brittany Bailey PG, Sr., Jennifer Blackburn P, Sr., Taris Pond P-G, Sr., Heather Blackburn G, Jr.
Key losses: Stephanie Bailey P, So., transfered to Texico.
Strengths: Experience
Weaknesses: Not as deep as last year.
Keys to success: Keeping up the focus and effort.
Quotable: “They can read each other’s thoughts because they’ve been together since, first second grade.” — Rush on her team having played together for so long

Melrose
2003-04 record:
15-15 5-3 District 3-1A. Lost to Elida 52-39 for third in district tournament.
Coach: Jason Lee, 1st season, 43-32 in three seasons at House.
Returning starters: Audrey Hemminger P, Sr., Kelly Fish G, Jr., Schuyler Cochran P, Jr.
Key losses: Jessica Hail G, Allison Cochran P
Strengths: Post play, depth, athleticism
Weaknesses: Inexperience
Keys to success: The Lady Buffaloes have to get used to a philosophical revolution. After playing half basketball and zone defense, Lee has brought in an up-tempo offense and pressing man-on-man defense.
Quotable: “Good teams are going to show you where your defecinents are and we’re going to learn real quick. But they also make you better.” — Lee on a tough non-district schedule that features 2A Eunice, Santa Rosa and Texico.

Muleshoe
2003-04 record:
31-6, 10-0 District 2-3A. Lost to Canyon 42-26 in regional finals
Coach: Shana Simms, 6th season, 118-46, overall
Returning starters:Kelsy Friskup F, Sr., Jamie Carpenter G, Sr., Lindsey Wood PG, Sr.
Key losses: Sara Benham P, Tori Barton G
Strengths: Experience, defense
Weaknesses: Height
Keys to success: The Mules have to learn how to play without Benham, who averaged 20 points a game.
Quotable: “Right now we’re searching for those points, but when we gel, we’ll find them.” — Simms on losing Benham and Barton, who averaged close to 30 points a game.
Notable: Benham is now a center at the University of Denver, a Division I school in the Sun Belt Conference.

Texico
2003-04 record:
20-6, 6-2 Lost to Clayton 61-48 in semifinals of District 6-2A Tournament.
Coach: Buddy Little, 2nd season, 20-6.
Returning starters: Brette Hadley F, Sr., Lauren Boazman, F, Sr.
Key losses: Mandy Roberts, G, Jazzi Walls, C, Sissy Loper, wing
Strengths: Depth, shooting
Weaknesses: Experience, playing in tough district
Keys to success: Beating Clayton and Santa Rosa to qualify for the regional tournament.
Quotable: “It looks like a battle between us three.” — Little on Clayton, Santa Rosa and the Lady Wolverines
Notable: John Irwin, a member of the 1968-69 national championship ENMU team, is now an assistant coach with the team.