ALBUQUERQUE — Top-seeded Quemado may have thought it had gotten away from pesky San Jon in the third quarter of Saturday's Class B boys state championship game at The Pit, but the Eagles had another thing coming.
The Coyotes, led by sophomore guard Jacob Benally, threw a major scare into Quemado before the Eagles were able to nail down a 67-64 win at The Pit in the first boys Class B final in New Mexico since 1969.
Benally poured in 14 of his game-high 22 points and grabbed eight of his 10 rebounds in the final two periods as San Jon (23-6) patiently whittled away at a 21-point deficit.
Quemada (23-5) had just enough to hang on.
"When they got it down to like six or something, I was pretty nervous," admitted senior guard Jarret McKinley, who led four Eagles in double figures with 15 points — all but one coming in the first half.
Quemado, which routed Wagon Mound 91-56 in a semifinal game, is used to scoring in the 70s and 80s, coach Blaine Atwood said.
"It's an awesome feeling," he said. "We didn't play our best ballgame, but we did a good job. San Jon did a lot of good things that gave us fits."
Six-foot-3 senior forward Bryan Foust added 20 points for the Coyotes, who were playing in a state final for the first time since winning their third consecutive Class B crown in 1963. New Mexico originally had Class B basketball from 1954-69.
Coach Tommy Thompson said fatigue at the end may have kept San Jon (xx-x) from coming all the way back.
"We just didn't have our legs," said Thompson, whose team went 0-for-8 for the game from long range. "We usually make about 30 percent (on 3s). I think the the college (3-point) line kind of caused some confusion."
Things didn't look good when the Coyotes trailed 50-29 two minutes into the third quarter, but Benally scored nine consecutive San Jon points to cut into the deficit. By the end of the period, it was 58-47.
San Jon got within 65-60 after Benally made 1-of-2 from the line with 3:23 left. He then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on the next trip, and senior guard Jonathan Roberts' driving layup with 2:25 to go pushed Quemado's lead to seven.
"It feels good," said the 5-foot-9 Roberts, who finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. "Since I was a little kid I dreamed of this. Our seven seniors have been together since the third grade."
Junior guard Justin Pullen added 10 points for San Jon. Also in double figures for the Eagles were senior forward Garret Williams with 14 and sophomore forward Trey McKinley with 12.