By Kevin Wilson
With an unblemished record coming into the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference tournament, the Texico Wolverines realize they’re the biggest target in the small-school battle royale. Turns out it’s really tough to hit a moving target.
Fort Sumner was the latest to miss, unable to keep up with the frenetic pace the Wolverines displayed on offense and defense in a 69-44 EPAC semifinal victory Friday night at Greyhound Arena.
Miguel Reyna scored 24 to lead three in double figures for Texico (13-0), who will face Melrose in the 8:15 p.m. championship, also set for Greyhound Arena.
The Wolverines needed just 13 seconds to take the lead on a Kendall Naceanceno 3-pointer, then led the rest of the night while holding the Foxes to 17-of-53 shooting.
“In our press, we want to just wear people out,” Texico coach Scott Karger said. “We trap, we play lanes. We might not always get a steal, but teams will wear down and turn the ball over.”
The Foxes (8-6) had 17 turnovers, which isn’t bad by high school standards, but often couldn’t slow the tempo down when they did get the ball past Wolverine pressure, and took many hurried shots on the evening, including a 5-of-20 night from the 3-point line.
“We did make some dumb passes and had some turnovers,” Fort Sumner coach John Wooton said, “but they run the floor well and they play well together. They do some good things at both ends of the floor.”
Wolverine guard Gentry Doolittle, who scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, enjoys the frenetic pace.
“We just want to force them to the sidelines, get turnovers and trap a lot,” Doolittle said.
The Wolverines blew the game open in the third quarter, with Doolittle and Reyna combining for eight points during a 12-2 run that pushed the lead to 20 before Karger started to go deep into his bench for the final nine minutes.
“It wasn’t bad,” said Karger, who could only complain about a 6-of-17 night at the line. “I don’t think we shot a great field goal percentage, but a lot of that is because Fort Sumner did a great job defending. They’re really aggressive.
Nicholas Smith scored 13, while Talon Crist had 10 for the Foxes. Fort Sumner will face Dora in the 4:45 p.m. third-place game.
For Texico, it’s on to defend a perfect record, but also try to claim what would be its second-straight EPAC title, fourth in the last five years and 10th overall.
“I’m really excited,” Doolittle said. “It’s my second time going at it. Everyone’s gunning for us. We’re coming in No. 1 in 2A, No. 1 in here, and we always have a target on our backs. It’s fun.”
Melrose 65, Dora 62 — The Buffaloes (8-6) rallied in the fourth, outscoring the Coyotes 25-15 in the final frame and surviving when a late Coyote 3-point attempt was off.
“That’s a big win,” Melrose coach Jim Doherty said following a game where the Buffaloes trailed 30-16. “Dora’s such a good team. For our kids to be able to step up and play with a team like that is pretty exciting.”
Jay Faust scored 20 and Colton Draper 16, with each hitting four 3-pointers for Melrose.
During the fourth-quarter rally, Melrose hit all 11 of their free throw attempts.
“I’m hoping that’s a trend, let’s put it that way,” Doherty said. “The kids work a lot on their shooting, and they had a lot of confidence.”
Melrose is going for its first EPAC title since 2001, when the school also won the Class 1A title.
Dylan Privett had 24 to lead three Coyotes in double figures. Dalton Privett had 15 while Josh Walker added 11 for Dora (9-3).