Wolverines, Vixens capture EPAC titles

Texico freshman Faith Martin (20) tries to get a piece of the ball as Fort Sumner’s Tobea Patterson looks to score. Fort Sumner won its first EPAC title since 1996 by beating the Lady Woverines. (CNJ staff photo: Rick White)

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

TEXICO — For the first time in EPAC history, Texico hosted the championship games of the tournament. And it was a mixed bag of results for the home teams on Saturday night.

While the Wolverine boys won in the nightcap, in a tougher-than-expected tussle with Grady, Texico — the only Class 2A school in the 10-team fields — was upended 49-35 in the girls title game by Fort Sumner.

“Actually, I didn’t mind it being here because it felt like there were more people and it was easy to get excited,” said Fort Sumner’s Tobea Patterson, who led the Vixens with 16 points. “And it’s always fun to beat someone at their place.”

In Saturday’s first title game, Fort Sumner (13-0) pulled away from the host Wolverines at the beginning of the second quarter with a 7-2 run. Texico (8-3) struggled against the Vixens’ traps and half-court zone defense, scoring five points in the period. At halftime of the girls championship, the Vixens held a 22-14 advantage.

“I was surprised that the zone bothered them as much as it did,” said Fort Sumner coach Brian Fortner. “I thought the press might bother them, but I was really surprised at the 2-3 zone.”

Fort Sumner pulled ahead by 14 points after an 8-0 run in the third quarter made the score 32-18. Led by nine points from freshman Faith Martin, Texico did cut that lead down to seven thanks to seven straight points in the fourth quarter – capped by a basket from Ashley Kidd with five minutes remaining.

But the Wolverines could come no closer as the Vixens took the EPAC title that they almost had a year ago. In 2004, Grady nipped Fort Sumner in overtime for the girls championship.

In Saturday night’s boys title game, Texico (12-0) stayed undefeated. Not without a battle, though, did the Wolverines claim the championship over a stubborn Grady (6-6) squad as the 74-69 final score indicated.

Logan Brown, a bulky 6-foot-1 senior, turned out to be the major offensive weapon for Texico — and most from the outside. Brown canned six 3-pointers as the Wolverines had leads as high as 19 points in the title game.

Brown said afterward that he enjoys not having the stereotypical frame of a 3-point shooter.

“I kind of like that because they don’t always come out to guard you at the top of the key when you’re trailing on the break,” Brown said. “But I’ve always shot 3s — even when I was a little kid.

Braden Vaughan added 18 points for the winning Wolverines while Tony Clements chipped in with 11.

Grady, which surprised Fort Sumner in an EPAC semifinal game, refused to go away.

Domingo Diaz had 15 points for the Bronchos while Jarrod Lindsey and Colt Grau added 14 apiece. A 3-pointer by Trenton Whitehead cut Texico’s lead to only three points just before intermission.

In the second half, Grady was down 72-60 in the late-going but scored 13 of the game’s final 15 points for the final margin.

“We talked a lot about not getting so involved with running with the other people. We’ve got to play our ballgame and control what we do,” Grady coach Jim Kneipp said. “We’re 6-and-6, but we’ve played some good people. As long as they play hard, I can live with it win, lose or draw.”