Nailbiters have been the norm for the Logan Longhorns and Fort Sumner Foxes, who meet Saturday in the first round of the Class 1A boys state basketball playoffs.
A scant three points — a 61-58 overtime win over Clovis Christian in the District 4-1A tournament title game — was the difference in Logan hosting Saturday’s playoff game and hitting the road.
“It was a tough game, I am really pleased with how disciplined the boys played,” Longhorns coach Billy Burns said.
Seniors Taylor Smith and Cimmaron Osborn account for a bulk of Logan’s offense, senior Andrew Martinez (six points, five rebounds) provides the inside work and sophomore Brandon Rafool is the perimeter threat for Logan (17-9).
Logan’s longest streak was six games, but the Longhorns have won eight of their last nine and 12 of their last 14.
Still, things haven’t been easy, with eight games decided by seven points or less. The Longhorns are 7-1 in those contests.
They could have gone into the 4-1A tournament title game with a 10-game win streak but a non-district road loss to the Texico Wolverines (74-49) on Jan. 27 halted that possibility.
“It has been a tough district this year,” Burns said. “Through the week we will be working on correcting and limiting those little mistakes that have hurt us through the season and district tournament.”
It’s two points that have the Foxes traveling to Logan. That’s the margin in Dora’s 50-48 overtime win for the District 3-1A title Saturday.
“This was the team’s biggest comeback effort,” Foxes coach John Wootton said. “This year, the margin of victory in our district has been between two and three points (per game).”
The Foxes’ appearance is somewhat of a surprise, given the team’s 4-4 district record (16-9 overall). But Wootton attributes the Foxes’ late success this year to defensive pressure.
“We would like to be able to run and press teams but we don’t have the personnel to pull that off this year,” Wootton said. “We play tough defense, and that is what has allowed us to keep the opponents score low and keep the games so close.”
Fort Sumner, which is making its first state playoff appearance since 2006, hasn’t had many winning streaks. The Foxes’ longest streak is quite recent — a four-game streak ended by the loss at Dora.
Now, the Foxes are a win from Albuquerque. While Wootton said there are still kinks to work out, he understands a young team can struggle.
“Working out the little things, that is what we will do all week,” Wootton said. “Missed passes, shots that should not be (attempted), and fouls.
“These are high school boys and when you have high school players they are going to make high school mistakes. All you can do is tell them to keep their cool and play with their heads.”