It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Texico’s basketball teams, defending Class 2A state champions, will have to begin their bids for repeat titles on the road this week after losing heartbreakers to Santa Rosa at home last weekend in the District 6-2A tournament finals.
The Texico girls (20-7), who’ve won the last two 2A state titles, travel to Jal on Friday night while the boys play at Hagerman on Saturday. At stake are berths in next week’s quarterfinals at The Pit in Albuquerque.
First-year Lady Wolverines coach Ryan Autrey said his team will go as far as its defense.
“Offensively, we just want to be patient and take good shots that are presented to us,” he said. “Defensively, we’re going to try to pressure you and make you struggle to get into an offense.”
All of the Lady Wolverines’ losses have been to quality competition — Clovis, ranked third in Class 5A; Portales (twice), ranked fifth in Class 3A; Lovington, ranked second in 3A; Vega, a semifinalist in the Texas Class 1A playoffs and, of course, Santa Rosa twice. Santa Rosa was ranked second in last week’s New Mexico High School Coaches Association poll, one notch behind Texico.
Autrey hopes Friday’s 33-29 loss to the Lady Lions serves as motivation.
“I think it’s refocused us, if anything,” he said. “Some of these girls realize now, ‘We’re going to have to play at another level’ (to win at state).”
For the boys, this season’s success has been a bit unexpected, veteran coach Richard Luscombe said, noting that four starters were lost to graduation from last year’s title team.
“It’s been a real pleasant surprise, as well as we’ve done and as fast as the kids have matured,” he said of the current campaign. “I really couldn’t be any more happy with where we’re at.”
Junior guard Seth Bailey is the lone returning starter and leads what has been a three-pronged scoring attack for the Wolverines (25-3) at 19 points per game. Sophomore Lucas Walthers (16 ppg) and senior Brett Anderson (14 ppg) have helped carry the load.
“It’s been a nice thing because any one of them has the ability to have a big (scoring) night,” Luscombe said. “I attribute a lot of that to our kids getting the ball to where our strengths are.”
After losing its season opener at Vega — three days after winning the Class 2A state football championship — Texico went on a 22-game winning streak that was snapped at Santa Rosa. The Lions got past Texico again on Saturday 54-50 in overtime in the district tournament.
“It was good that we’d had success already (in football),” Luscombe said. “Any time you have success in one program, that tends to follow you into the next program.”
He said the players aren’t letting any disappointment over last weekend’s loss show through.
“Obviously, there was a lot of disappointment, just because it was such a competitive game,” Luscombe said. “I think the kids realize if they’re going to win later in the season, they’re going to have to win away from home.”
Hagerman (23-3) is led by Class 2A’s top scorer, sophomore guard Isaac Bejarano, averaging around 26 points a game.