The third-seed Logan Longhorns have advanced to the Class 2A state basketball championship after upsetting the second seed Escalante Lobos 66-63 in Rio Rancho.
With the win Logan will face Class 2A’s top ranked and unbeaten Magdalena Steers, 30-0, who beat Mora 78-65 in an earlier semifinals game.
“The Longhorns and I are looking forward to facing Magdalena,” said Randy Robertson, Longhorns head coach.
Robertson said the first-seed Steers have several shooters the Longhorns are going to have to keep from getting open looks from the outside. He said while the Longhorns will work to keep Magdalena’s long range scorers off the boards they are going to be mindful of the Steer’s inside game.“The boys are excited and we know it’s going to be a hard fought game,” Robertson said.
To get to the championship game the Longhorns staged a rally in the second half of Thursday night’s semifinal game to overcome a stout Escalante team, an opponent that Robertson said nobody outside the Longhorns and their fans had a huge amount of hope they could beat.
With two minutes remaining in the semi-final game, Logan junior Michael Estrada made a 3-pointer to give the Longhorns a 60-58 lead, and the Lobos responded with a 3-pointer of their own.
Senior Wyatt Strand then scored the final six points for the Longhorns in the last minute of the game.
Strand was fouled at the basket making both the shot and the ensuing free throw for a three-point play. He then made two additional free throws after being fouled on a shot following a defensive steal by senior Wesley Gudgell.
Robertson said the Longhorns made defensive adjustments and were able to pressure the Lobos with a half-court trap and come away with that turnover.
The Lobos, however, had no intention of going away quietly, and junior Dominic Montano gave Escalante a fighting chance when he was foul while scoring sent him to the foul line for a possible three-point play. Montano’s shot was off the mark and with time winding down, the Lobos had little choice but to foul to stop the clock.
Unfortunately the player the Lobos fouled was Strand, who scored 24 of his 36 points in the second half, and made one of two final free throws to clinch Logan’s comeback and the win.
Escalante had gone into half time with a 30-21 lead; junior Joseph Hurd scored 20 of those points, even though Hurd picked up a fourth personal foul in the third period and was on the bench for most of the third period.
On defense, the Lobos’ six foot seven senior Adam Edwards made his presence felt through out the game, blocking five of the Longhorns shots in the first half and coming up with more than 14 rebounds.
“We knew we had to make the adjustment in the second half to take away some of the Lobos weapons,” Robertson said.
Logan entered the second half needing to score quickly to keep pace with the Lobos. The Longhorns scored four 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the third period, two by Strand and two by junior Brinton Roach, who made a third 3-pointer later in that period. Logan managed to outscore the Lobos 20-15 in the third period.
The Lobos were able to answer the Longhorns scoring run with one of their own and managed to regain a four-point lead by the end of the period.
Logan, however, outscored the Lobos 25-18 in the final period.
“The boys never doubted that they had a chance to win,” Robertson said. “Even when behind they went out there and found a way to win.”
Game time: 4 p.m., Saturday at The Pit at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.