Elida sophomore Kody Paiz, left, fights for position against Fort Sumner junior Berry Stinnett in Friday’s EPAC semifinal at Greyhound Arena.
Size may matter sometimes, but not so much in the semifinals of the EPAC boys basketball tournament. On Friday, Dora and Elida overcame size disadvantages in earning a berth in today’s 8 p.m. title clash at Greyhound Arena.
Dora knocked off Texico 58-54 while Elida beat Fort Sumner 78-48 at ENMU’s Greyhound Arena.
By beating Texico, Dora avenged a one-point semifinal defeat to the Wolverines in last year’s EPAC.
The Coyotes seized the lead late in the first quarter when Clay Smith drained a 3-pointer — part of an 11-3 run for Dora (8-3), which never relinquished the advantage.
Texico (7-4) came close late, clipping an 11-point deficit to one in the last two minutes.
But free throws, which were a problem for Dora over the first three quarters, became a safety valve in the last period. After a Hector Fierro bucket with 1:40 left pushed the lead back to three, the Coyotes then hit four straight free throws to help secure the win.
Kyler Smith led Dora with 16 points while Clay Smith added 11. Courtland Luscombe and Seth Bailey paced the Wolverines in scoring, tallying 15 and 12 respectively.
“We hadn’t seen anybody that big this season,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “Usually, there’ll be a couple of big kids, but not that big of guards. We had some matchup problems, but they’re definitely competitors and they play well together.”
The loss kept Texico coach Richard Luscombe at 399 career victories in 19 seasons at the school. He’ll shoot for No. 400 in today’s 4 p.m. third-place game against Fort Sumner.
“We tried to cut that 10-point lead in half and we had our opportunities,” Luscombe said. “I don’t know how many 2-footers we missed. We came back and played hard. We just didn’t execute the way we needed to.”
Elida’s win over Fort Sumner was a rematch of a game the Tigers (14-0) won in overtime in the finals of a tournament in Tucumcari last month. This one was decided almost as soon as the Tigers began to drain 3-point shots.
When Cade Cathey hit a trey late in the first quarter for a 21-8 lead for the Tigers, he became the fifth Elida player to can a long-range jumper — joining teammates Wesley Gilmore, Ever Varela, Ryan Best and Dan Massey.
After Fort Sumner (6-4) countered with a bucket, the Tigers scored six more points for a 17-point bulge in the second period.
By the end of the game, Trenton Chenault and Ethan Jasso also joined the Elida 3-point parade.
“Their pressure last time was tremendous,” Elida coach Darrell Chenault said. “We had time to watch a little film and make some adjustments. That helped us a lot.
“And tonight we just got hot there in the first half and got the big lead. That changed some things that they ordinarily don’t do.”
Gilmore finished with 21 points while Cathey (19) and Varela (16) also got into double figures. Cathy and Kody Paiz combined to yank down 17 rebounds to limit the Foxes’ size advantage.
Rawley Stallard led Fort Sumner with 11 points, while Cass Dimitroff chipped in with 10.
“When the ball goes in the hole, it solves a lot of problems ,” Foxes coach John Wootton said. “All of the pressure in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t score in the end.”