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.
  – No team has had as many losses entering a state title game in New Mexico prep history (boys or girls) than Lovington's 17 (Ruidoso boys had 15 losses – but 22 wins – in 2001 before losing in the title game).
  – Lovington is the first girls team to ever enter the state title game with a losing record and only the second team overall counting boys and girls. The other? The 1983 Lovington boys state championship team that was 13-14 heading into the title game before winning it all and evening its record at 14-14.
  If Lovington were to beat No. 3 Santa Fe Indian 2 p.m. Friday at The Pit, it would be the program's first girls state basketball title (it's only other appearance in a state title game was when Lovington lost to Portales in 2003).
  In the late game Thursday, Hobbs was right there with Eldorado in the 5A semifinals but 31 turnovers killed Hobbs as it fell short. To lose by such a close margin while turning the ball over 31 times is tough because even four or five less turnovers may have equaled a chance to win a state title.
  Still, it was another solid season for Hobbs as it made its second consecutive trip to the state semifinals. Losing four seniors will be tough, including three starters, but there is plenty of talent to fill in the gaps heading into next season.
  As for Tatum, it withstood a 3-point barrage by Cliff in the third quarter and battled back to win and again play for the state title. Cliff had a ton of height but Tatum's press gave the Cowgirls issues throughout.
  While Kylie Wheeler was questionable for the game, she played but ended up injuring her other leg in the final seconds of the game. It's unknown if she'll play. Tatum is already playing without leading scorer Monica Ramirez due to a knee injury suffered in the first-round win over McCurdy.
  Tatum plays a top-seeded Melrose team it lost to twice during the season noon Saturday for the 1A championship at The Pit. Tatum's depth will be put to the test if it has to go without both Ramirez and Wheeler – two of the team's top three post players.