BERNALILLO — Fort Sumner’s bid for a second consecutive Class 1A state boys basketball championship stayed alive on Wednesday, but not without a struggle.
The Foxes built a 17-point lead with under 6 1/2 minutes left against Des Moines, but had to hang on late for a 75-68 victory over the Demons at Bernalillo High School.
Senior post Dax Moyer scored 32 points and sophomore forward Kolter West added 21 for fifth-seeded Fort Sumner (19-10), which plays top-seeded Cliff (26-1) in a 4:45 p.m. semifinal today at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
The championship game is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at The Pit in Albuquerque.
Fort Sumner, which trailed 6-0 at the start in a 54-49 home loss to state qualifier Melrose in the finals of the District 3-1A tournament, found itself in an 8-0 hole after only 1:15 in this one. The Foxes responded with a 22-2 run the rest of the quarter for a 12-point lead.
The Demons (21-9) committed 20 of their 26 turnovers in the first half, including 17 steals by Fort Sumner.
“The kids really stepped up,” Foxes coach John Wootton said. “Unlike the Melrose game, they held their composure and came back.
“We got a little tight late in the game. (On) our press-breaker, two or three times we had the wrong guy taking the ball out of bounds.”
Des Moines pulled to 71-67 on a 3-pointer with 1:24 left by senior forward Wyatt Walker, who finished with 22 points.
Jake Doherty’s free throw with 1:09 remaining cut it to three, but Moyer scored against the press seconds later for a five-point lead and West added two free throws with 16 seconds to go to seal it.
“Coach told us to expect (Des Moines) to have a quick start, and not to worry about it,” Foxes senior guard Cameron Simmons said. “That’s exactly what happened. We just had to not get down and (continue to) play our game.”
Junior forward T.J. Simpson led the Demons with 23 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.
“The first half, we didn’t execute and that’s been a bit of a problem all year,” Demons coach Jim Doherty said. “We knew the 1-3-1 was coming. When we executed our press-breaker, we got layups.”