By Thomas Garcia
QCS Staff Writer
After a district championship weekend in Quay County, five area teams will begin their state basketball tournament run Friday and Saturday at home and on the road.
Teams were seeded on Sunday by the New Mexico Activities Association and teams ranked first through eighth earned a first-round home game; teams ranked ninth through 16th will travel to the lower seed.
Both the Rattlers, 18-5, 6-0, and Lady Rattlers, 17-7, 5-1, will host a first-round state game after winning the boys and girls District 5 3A championships Friday and Saturday at the Snake Pit.
It is the first time in school history that both teams won the district championship and host first-round state tournament games.
The No. 7 seed Lady Rattlers will host the 10th-seed Pecos Lady Panthers, who won the District 2 3A championship 56-45 Friday night against Dulce at Pecos.
“We don’t know much about the Lady Panthers but we are going prepare the best we can for what we expect to be a tough game,” said Lady Rattlers head coach Gary Hittson.
The Lady Rattlers’ district championship win against the Clayton Lady Yellowjackets went down to the wire Friday night at a packed Snake Pit.
“The longest 29 seconds of my life,” said Hittson. “These girls never stopped fighting. They played down to the very last second.”
Tied at 50 all, Lady Rattler point guard Kaycee Lease stepped to the foul line with the game hinging on her free throws.
Lease, made both shots, and after a failed attempt by Clayton to tie the game, secured the loose ball and drove the length of the court, making a layup as the final buzzer sounded.
“This has been a long time coming,” Lease said. “I’m so glad that we were able to give the crowd the win they came out to see.”
Hittson said the Lady Rattlers did a great job making their free throws — they converted nine of 13 shots from the foul line — and keeping the Lady Yellowjackets from the line.
“Coach Hittson told us to calm down, play our game and do not make stupid fouls,” Lease said.
In the third period Lease led a late rally with two 3-pointers and two field goals. Lady Rattler forward Kalani French and point guard Alyssa Martinez each contributed with two points and point guard capped the third quarter surge with a 3-pointer.
Hittson said the home-court crowd was fantastic and came out in a big way for the Lady Rattlers.
“They lifted the girls up,” Hittson said of the crowd. “We hope to see even more people come out to support the Lady Rattlers on Friday”
Game time 6 p.m., Friday at the Snake Pit.
Saturday’s District 5 3A championship was the second time in a week the Rattlers edged the Santa Rosa Lions in a close game.
Shooting guard Tyler Ferguson made two free throws and gave the Rattlers a four-point lead with only 8 seconds remaining in the game.
“I told myself to focus and take my time,” Ferguson said. “It’s just like practice; it’s just me, the line, the ball and the basket.”
Just like the Feb. 20 game against the Rattlers, the Lions were short on time and down by two scores. The Lions once again scored the last basket of the game, only to fall short 75-73 to the Rattlers.
The Rattlers’ offense was led by shooting guard John Paul Garcia, who scored 27 points.
“It is an amazing feeling to win district in front of a home town crowd,” Garcia said.
Rattler forward Zedric Henderson Greene was second high scorer with 19 points against the Lions.
Free throws once again played a crucial role in Saturday night’s game between the Rattlers and Lions.
The Lions overcame a 10-point halftime lead, outscored the Rattlers 19-16 in the third period and 23-18 in the final period. However, in the third period the Lions only made three of 13 free throws and ended the night 13 of 28 from the foul line.
The Rattlers made 19 of 24 free throws, including final two by Ferguson.
“It is a great feeling to win,” Ferguson said. “I think we finally have the respect that we were not given from our earlier wins against them.”
Span said the Rattlers shot well from the line, but he wants the team to get out of the habit of taking unnecessary shots. He said while he wants the team to attack the basket some times they need to slow down look at the situation at hand and play smart.
“We’d shoot shots that we didn’t need only to give the other team the ball back,” Span said. “We have to play smarter.”
Garcia said the Rattlers know they need to take care of the ball and work harder on boxing out for the rebound and blocking off the inside lane.
Span said Lions guard Joaquin Romo, who scored 27 points, hurt the Rattlers by driving the lane attacking the basket. He said Romo was also able to get his own rebound several times for second chance shots.
Span said the Rattlers address these issues as they prepare for the 13th-seed Desert Academy, which lost the District 2 3A semifinal game, 81-55, Thursday at Dulce.
“We don’t know much about Desert Academy,” Span said. “We are going to prepare as we always do and expect a battle when we step onto the court.
Game time: 6 p.m., Saturday at the Snake Pit.
The Logan Lady Longhorns are the highest-seeded local team — at No. 1 — in the 2A girls state basketball tournament.
The Lady Longhorns, 20-7, 6-3, won the District 6 2A championship Friday by defeating the Dora Lady Coyotes 47-35 at Logan.
The Lady Longhorns will host No. 16 seed Navajo Pine Lady Warriors at 6 p.m., Friday night at Logan.
The Lady Warriors, 12-16, 3-1, lost the district 1 2A championship 66-21 Friday night at Ramah.
Game time: 6 p.m., Friday at Logan.
The 6 seed (2A) Logan Longhorns and 10 seed (1A) San Jon Coyotes will start their state tournament run on the road.
The Longhorns, 11-15, 1-5, will play at 6 p.m., Saturday against the 15-12, 4-7, Trojans at Mesa Vista.
The Coyotes, 12-12, 6-2, will play at 6 p.m., Saturday against the 22-5, 8-2, Eagles at Vaughn.