Hobbs' Terrell Wright goes for a steal against MidlandHigh during the Eagles' win Tuesday at Tasker Arena.
As many know, Tasker Arena is far from just any high school gym. Usually close to capacity each home game with plenty of traditions (baseline benches, Taskervitch Band, the Hobbs Mascots, etc.) and 16 state title banners hanging above the court to remind every opponent what they are walking into, Tasker Arena is one of the best places to watch high school basketball.
With probably 2,500 fans in the stands Tuesday eager to see Hobbs' return to the full-court pressing style popularized by Ralph Tasker himself, I'm sure even the returning players had nerves in this first game. It didn't show for long as the Eagles built a 38-23 lead at the half thanks to a late run in the second quarter that caused Midland High players to gasp for air on the court as they were worn down by the never-ending pressure.
The Bulldogs behind the talents of TJ Brown (who finished with 25 points) battled back to get within two at 51-49 early in the fourth quarter, but the scoring of Aaron Ibarra, Andrew Barrientes and Austin Montoya along with the Eagles' press again tuckered out Midland High as Hobbs went on to win by 21 points.
Big game for Aaron Ibarra as the senior had 26 points and 12 rebounds with 14 of his points coming in the fourth quarter. Like I've said before, this up-tempo, full-court pressing brand of basketball is perfectly suited for the 6-foot-3 long and lanky Ibarra.
Andrew Barrientes has been the rock for Hobbs through two games as after scoring 15 points in the opener against Midland Lee in Midland, the senior guard had 20 points Tuesday with four 3-pointers. Barrientes isn't big, but he's just a gamer.
Montoya was huge in the fourth quarter with not just 10 of his 14 points, but also making key passes and steals to help Hobbs come up with the win. A tough, strong point guard, if Montoya can stay out of foul trouble he'll be a nightmare on opponents.
Speaking of foul trouble, junior Dane Pannell after his 20-point, 20-rebound performance had seven points and five rebounds as he fouled out early in the fourth quarter and was in foul trouble throughout.
Pannell, Ibarra and Montoya were all in foul trouble for much of the game – the second time in a row this has happened. The first time it was Pannell bailing out the Eagles as both Montoya and Ibarra fouled out early in the fourth quarter against Midland Lee in the opener.
While both games turned into victories, if Hobbs wants to be a top contender in the Class 5A, it is going to need to have those three along with Barrientes on the court at the end of games. I understand fouls are part of the press, but it's going to be key for these guys to be on the floor at the end of games instead of picking up cheap fouls early in games. I'd love to see what the point differential is for Hobbs when those three have been on the court at the same time this season. My guess is it's extremely in favor of Hobbs.
Up next for Hobbs is the Canutillo Tournament in El Paso 7 p.m. Thursday against El Paso Faith Christian.
I'll be at each game, and for score updates, stats and more, follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/HobbsSportsGuy and I'm sure I'll blog after each game as well.