By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
As New Mexico rings in the new year, the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference tournament consisting of 20 boys and girls teams kicks off today and over the next five days at Texico High School.
EPAC is the oldest and biggest tournament in the state, and for most teams it will be the first action they have seen since the start of Christmas break.
Texico boys coach Rich Luscombe said his team worked on playing more consistent ball, and found their groove just before the break.
“We’ve had to work extra hard in practice to make sure we have more consistency,” Luscombe said. “They’re tired of practicing and want to play.”
The Wolverines enter the tournament at 9-2 and are seeded No. 1 in the 4A bracket. Luscombe attributes their strong start to balance on offense.
“We don’t have one kid who does all of our scoring,” he said. “Sometimes its three or four kids who lead us in scoring.”
The Elida boys and girls teams hold the No. 1 seeds in the 3A brackets.
House stands as the other No. 1 seed on the girls side in the 4A bracket.
With its balanced attack in place, Luscombe said Texico has as feasible a chance as any team in the tournament to make a run at the championship. Still, Luscombe said every team in the tournament poses a threat.
“I know any of them can be potential trouble,” he said. “Some of these teams have played before the tournament and that could give them an advantage.”
Elida was forced to cancel games against House due to severe weather conditions on Dec. 30, girls coach Dan Howard said.
“I always like to have a game between Christmas and New Year’s,” Howard said. “You get in a groove and lay off for two weeks and you get a bit rusty.”
Howard said the weather has even affected the number of players able to attend practices.
“We’ve been working at it the best we can in this bad weather,” he said. “Some of the players live so far away it makes it hard.”
The Lady Tigers do have some cushion room as they’ve roared to an early 10-2 start, with their up-tempo offense and mix-and-match defense.
“We run a little bit of everything (on defense),” Howard said. “It keeps (teams) off balance.”
Elida is also looking forward to a possible match-up with Texico, Howard said. But Howard understands the EPAC is a long tournament.
“I hope we get to play (Texico),” he said. “But we have to get past that first game.”