Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring is here ... and so are its sports; NMJC off to fast conference start

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
NMJC's Damion Lovato bats Saturday against Odessa College.
  Sorry it's been awhile since I've updated the ole' blog, just been taking a bit of a break after a hectic couple of weeks of writing, photo taking and traveling to cover all these events.
  But I'm back and spring is here - one of my favorite times of the year. The weather has warmed up (and hopefully will stay nice for awhile) and baseball, softball, track and field, golf and tennis are all in full swing.
  What I really took away from my first week in spring sports coverage mode (like I said, the previous weeks I've been busy wrapping up the winter sports) is New Mexico Junior College baseball probably has its most talented team overall since Ray Birmingham left to coach at University of New Mexico.
  While the Thunderbirds (21-9 overall, 10-2 and in first place of the WJCAC) split their games with Odessa College on Saturday, getting an uncharacteristically bad performance from a pitching staff in game two (giving up 20 hits and 11 runs) that has an ERA of 3.59 this season, it's easy to see the pieces are in place to give Howard College (ranked fifth in the nation) a run for its money in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Despite shooting struggles, Lady T-Birds win opener at NJCAAs

  The sixth-seeded New Mexico Junior College women's basketball team overcame a sluggish performance from the field to defeat No. 11 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M 52-42 in the opening round of the NJCAA Women's Division I National Tournament on Tuesday in Salina, Kan.
  I'm sure many of the struggles from the field (NMJC shot 26.6 percent) can be attributed to first-game nerves, but Waleska Perez's five 3-pointers and 19 points along with Honor Duvall's 14 points and 13 rebounds helped the Lady Thunderbirds (30-4) move onto the quarterfinals where they will play No. 3 Central Arizona (30-1) 5 p.m. (MST) Wednesday.
  Here is the link to watch this game online.
  For more information on Tuesday's victory for NMJC, read Wednesday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun.

Monday, March 19, 2012

'Bittersweet': Hobbs grad Taylor's collegiate career comes to a close

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs grad and Vanderbilt senior Jeffery Taylor prior to
Saturday's game against Wisconsin at The Pit.
  With his hands on the back of his head, Hobbs graduate Jeffery Taylor stood solemn near his Vanderbilt bench watching Wisconsin celebrate moving on to the Sweet 16.
  Taylor’s collegiate career had come to a close after Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren tipped Vanderbilt’s inbound pass with 1.9 seconds left and time ran out with the Commodores losing 60-57 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at The Pit.
  It’s a drastic difference to the way Taylor’s high school career ended at The Pit when Taylor and his Eagle teammates stormed up The Pit ramp with the 2008 Class 5A state championship trophy after beating Clovis for Hobbs’ 16th state championship. I remember following the Eagle players up the ramp to the locker room that day March 15, 2008, as they shouted and hollered in celebration.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hobbs grad, Vandy senior Taylor popular in Albuquerque this week

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs grad and Vanderbilt senior Jeffery Taylor flies in for a dunk Thursday.
  ALBUQUERQUE — I'm going to write more about this in a column, but it's been a hectic week for Hobbs grad and Vanderbilt senior Jeffery Taylor. With the fifth-seeded Commodores being selected to play at The Pit in Albuquerque for the second and third round of the NCAA Tournament and Taylor playing his high school basketball in New Mexico (granted, nearly five hours away in Hobbs), he's been the popular choice of the media and fans this week and handled it well, particularly for a young man who isn't looking for the limelight.
  I've been in Albuquerque since Wednesday and will be here through Vanderbilt's game against Wisconsin on Saturday. For those family, friends and fans (and media) that traveled to watch him play Thursday during a win over Harvard, it's been a nice treat to watch him play – particularly with how much his game has evolved. His game has grown into his natural athletic talents. I'll have more on the improvement on his game in Saturday's News-Sun and more coverage will be in Sunday's paper as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hobbs grad, Vandy senior Taylor to play in Albuquerque, NMJC women win Region V championship

  While Sundays usually aren't a huge source of news when it comes to local sports, two interesting stories came out of this Sunday.
  First the NCAA Tournament brackets were released and Vanderbilt, led by Hobbs graduate Jeffery Taylor, got a fifth seed and will play No. 12 Harvard on Thursday in Albuquerque at The Pit (Click here for the complete bracket).
  It's no secret Hobbs and the surrounding area still follows Taylor at Vanderbilt (I've seen numerous kids wearing the No. 44 Vanderbilt jersey and several folks chat with me about how he's doing for the Commodores) and I'm hoping to be up at the event covering Taylor and get a few stories into the News-Sun (not always easy getting press credentials for these events when you don't cover the team on a regular basis).

With different results, both Tatum, Lovington show resiliency at state

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Lovington's Mystica Perez goes in for a layup
during the Class 3A state title game against Santa
Fe Indian Friday at The Pit in Albuquerque.
  It was a wild state tournament with a pair of Lea County teams – the Lovington girls and Tatum girls – making the championship game in their classifications. While 12th-seeded Lovington shocked the state and won the 3A title with a dramatic win and the short-handed No. 2 Tatum girls fell in overtime in the 1A title game, both showed resiliency in their respective title games.
  For the Lovington girls, and as I wrote in my column in Saturday's paper, they made an epic and historic run that won't be forgotten. The Lady Wildcats under first-year coach Chris Brattain (a Lovington grad) defeated the No. 1, No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in its four wins to the state title capped by an improbable 49-48 win over No. 2 and two-time defending champion Santa Fe Indian Friday at The Pit thanks to a pair of incredibly clutch Mystica Perez free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining in the game.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

State Tourney, Day 3: No. 12 Lady 'Cats continue historic run

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
LHS' Cori Haley scores the game winner Thursday
against top-seeded Hope Christian at The Pit.
  ALBUQUERQUE — What a wild Day 3 at the New Mexico State Basketball Tournament for Lea County teams. While No. 5 Hobbs battled hard and nearly pulled off the upset of No. 1 Eldorado in the 5A semifinals (losing 51-48), No. 12 Lovington continued a historic run to the 3A state title game by beating top-seeded Hope Christian (43-41) in 3A and No. 2 Tatum continued to plug away, edging out No. 3 Cliff 45-41 in the 1A state semifinals to advance to its second-consecutive state title game.
  First I have to talk about this Lovington girls team that is now 12-17 on the season. The Lady Wildcats used a basket by Cori Haley set up by a perfect inbound pass by Mystica Perez with 2.8 seconds left to give Lovington a win in game it led by double digits in the first half.
  I'm going to put this amazing run in perspective.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

N.M. State Basketball Tournament, Day 2: Hobbs edged by La Cueva

The Hobbs basketball team waits for its game against La Cueva to begin.
  ALBUQUERQUE — The Hobbs boys basketball team came so close.
  The sixth-seeded Eagles led for the first 28 minutes, 1 second of the contest and looked good – particularly in the first half. Hobbs was pushing the tempo and La Cueva looked gassed in the second quarter as Hobbs led 36-32 at the half and led by as much as 10 points.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

N.M. State Basketball Tournament, Day 1: Lea County girls teams go 3-0

Hobbs' Tesla Deberry dribbles Tuesday.

  ALBUQUERQUE — Definitely was a good day Tuesday for the Lea County girls basketball teams at the state tournament as No. 5 Hobbs beat No. 4 Mayfield 39-35 in Class 5A, No. 12 Lovington upset No. 4 St. Michael's 40-29 in 3A and No. 2 Tatum getting past No. 7 Logan 57-49 in 1A.
  I made the trip to all three games from the Santa Ana Star Center to The Pit back to Bernalillo High School to cover each contest and here are just a couple thoughts from each game. For complete coverage of the games, read Wednesday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun.
Class 5A - No. 5 Hobbs 39, No. 4 Mayfield 35
  Hobbs jumped out to an early 13-3 lead and never relinquished it during a slim win. Mayfield cut the lead to one point late in the fourth, but clutch free throws by Tesla Deberry and Danielle Patterson shut the door.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

After dramatic comeback, Eagles' return-to-glory story not over just yet

  I’ll admit, I thought the Hobbs boys basketball team’s season was finished. Done. Game over.
  Trailing No. 11 Sandia 63-51 with just over four minutes left in the game and having played seven-and-a-half consecutive sluggish quarters (including the poor performance during a loss to Clovis in the District 4-5A Tournament championship game), I was already thinking of how I was going to write the sixth-seeded Eagles’ epitaph.
  But how could a turnaround campaign under first-year coach Mike Smith where the Eagles turned a 12-17 record last season into a 19-8 mark and a District 4-5A regular-season championship this season finish with two such poor performances? It didn’t seem fair to the Eagles – particularly to this group of seniors – and to its fans.
  Suddenly, a spark in the form of 5-foot-9 Andrew Barrientes turned a fire that was about to die into a raging blaze. The senior, a great shooter who nearly air balled a free throw early in the fourth quarter, scored seven points in 35 seconds to help save Hobbs’ season.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lea County girls basketball teams advance in different fashions

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Tatum's Devanne Sours goes up for a shot
against McCurdy on Friday in Tatum.
  The three Lea County girls basketball teams that made it to their respective classification's state tournament – Hobbs, Lovington and Tatum – all advanced in different fashions Friday night.
  Hobbs, the fifth seed in Class 5A, jumped out to a 28-14 lead on No. 12 Oñate and looked primed to run the Lady Knights out of the gym in the second half.
  Instead, Hobbs struggled to put Oñate away and had to hold off the Lady Knights 48-43. The Lady Eagles were far from pleased with their effort and know they will have to play better to beat No. 4 Mayfield 9:45 a.m. Tuesday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Keys to victory for Hobbs boys and girls in first round of state

  It's that time of year again when one loss sends a team back home for good wondering what could have been. It's state tournament time, always a great week of hoops in New Mexico.
  Both the Hobbs boys and girls are top-six seeds in the tournament (Eagles are No. 6, Lady Eagles No. 5) and have a chance to make noise in the state playoffs.
  Here are my keys to victory for both the Hobbs boys and girls in their first round games.

No. 6 Hobbs vs. No. 11 Sandia
 7 p.m. Saturday, Tasker Arena
  1. Dictate tempo: It's no secret what Hobbs wants to do – press, run and score. Sandia didn't play a team this season with the tempo of Hobbs and if the Eagles can get the Matadors in an up-tempo contest it should benefit Hobbs, particularly in the final two quarters.