By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The fourth-seed seed Tucumcari Rattlers will face the 5 seed Santa Rosa Lions for the fifth time this season on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the 3A state boys basketball tournament in Rio Rancho.
The Rattlers, 19-5, 6-0, beat Desert Academy 74-52 Saturday night to advance to the quarterfinal game against the Lions.
Leading the Rattlers offense against the Wildcats were seniorspoint guards John Paul Garcia (27 points) and Tyler Ferguson (21 points).
“Tyler came alive for us in a big way,” said John Span, Rattler head coach.
Span said Ferguson has always been a solid player and his offensive explosion late in the season adds to the Rattlers as they move on in the tournament.
Span said the Rattlers were able to apply pressure to the Wildcats that resulted in Desert Academy only scoring 14 points in the first half of the game.
Ferguson said the team was playing with a high level of confidence and started out fighting to take the lead.
Span said Wildcats were more aggressive in the second half and point guard John Rigatti showed that aggressiveness while scoring 21 points for Desert Academy.
Ferguson said the Rattlers need to be more disciplined on defense by knowing which man they are covering and following through on their responsibilities.
Garcia said the Rattlers have to move their feet to block the other players from driving to the basket.
“The team has to play smarter and not commit stupid fouls,” said Daniel Lopez, Rattlers senior guard.
Lopez said the Rattlers need to move their feet and avoid drawing needless fouls that send opposing players to the foul line. Against the Rattlers, the Wildcats made 15 of 19 free throws, while the Rattlers were 21 of 33 from the foul line.
Span said free throws can be a crucial factor in a game. He said free throws can make or break a season.
Span said the Rattlers also need to exercise better ball control. He said the Rattlers had 11 turnovers against the Wildcats. The team knows it must get these issues worked out before facing the Lions once again.
The Rattlers lead the series 3-1 against the Lions. Their one loss to Santa Rosa was on Dec. 11 at the Johnny May Classic Tournament at Santa Rosa.
Since then the Rattlers have faced and beaten the Lions including a 81-78 overtime win on Feb. 6 at the Snake Pit and a 75-73 District 5 3A championship win on Feb. 27 at the Snake Pit.
“Its going to be a battle when we step onto the court with the Lions for a fifth time,” Span said.
Span said both teams know each other so well having played against each other so many times.
“Like all the times before its going to be a shoot out,” Span said. “There will be no shortage of excitement. Rest assured the Rattlers are going to be ready for a battle.”
Game time: 7:30 p.m., today at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.
The 1A San Jon Coyotes lost their first round state basketball game 76-52 Saturday night at Vaughn.
The 2A Logan Longhorns lost their first round state basketball game 69-61 Saturday night in overtime at Mesa Vista