Melrose’s Brock Graham is fouled by Hagerman’s Danny Gomez during the first half of Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinal game in Bernalillo. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent
BERNALILLO — One thing that postseason opponents have learned about Melrose is not to ever count the Buffaloes out. But, thanks to a big counter-punch from Hagerman in the closing seconds, nobody will have to worry about that anymore this year.
Hagerman (25-7) used a game-ending 10-2 run to beat Melrose 61-54 in a first-round game of the Class 1A boys state tournament Wednesday at Bernalillo High.
Rallying from a 33-21 second-quarter, Melrose took its first lead (41-40) late in the third quarter via a steal and layup by Carlos Ruiz. Melrose (20-9) led by as many as four points in a back-and-forth fourth quarter until Hagerman’s late run.
A James Tatum free throw put Melrose up 54-51.
Hagerman’s Jesus Barraza pump in a 3-pointer to tie the game with 1:56 remaining.
The Bobcats then caught Tatum in a midcourt trap and Barraza swiped the ball and went in for a layup — and a 56-54 Hagerman lead. Allen Pilley and Rufe Dunnahoo sealed the win with layups off steals.
Barraza led the Bobcats with 21 points while Dunnahoo added 14.
Jason Runyan was Melrose’s high-point man with 14 while Tatum and Caleb Dodd, the Buffaloes’ biggest weapon early on, each scored 11.
“Early on in the game, we didn’t shoot the ball well and we didn’t get our usual dribble-penetration. They shut us down right there,” Melrose coach Casey Pack said. “They’re like us — they hustle.”
Carlos Ruiz, Melrose’s leading scorer, was held in check in the first half and finished with 10.
It’s the second straight-year Melrose was eliminated in the first round.
“We’re eight out of 35 teams in the state in 1A to get here and that’s a pretty good task,” Pack said. “And the road we went through to get here was even tougher. I told the kids I’m happy with what they’ve done — I just want to move on.”