Sunday, March 11, 2012

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.
  The key to Lovington's run was it didn't look at itself as a No. 12 seed. It knew it was better than its 9-17 mark heading into the tournament. The Lady Wildcats knew they were better than that and proved it over a wild eight days. Congrats to them.
  Almost as impressive was the run the Tatum girls made. After losing leading scorer Monica Ramirez was lost for the rest of the season due to a knee injury in the first round of state, the Lady Coyotes battled through to beat No. 7 Logan and No. 3 Cliff to make it to the state title game. Unfortunately for the Lady Coyotes, they lost Kylie Wheeler (who led Tatum in scoring in the first round and the quarterfinals) due to a knee injury in the semifinals and would be down two starters playing a top-seeded Melrose team that had already beat a full-strength Tatum team twice this season.
  Melrose looked as if it was going to pull away in the second half as it led 35-21 a few minutes into the third quarter.
  Tatum didn't fold up, however. In fact, the Lady Coyotes did the exact opposite.
  Never-say-die Tatum went on a 19-0 run to end the third quarter and led 40-35 heading into the fourth. Melrose bounced back and led 47-44 with under 30 seconds left in the game before freshman Abby Medlin drained a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to eventually send the game to overtime.
  Unfortunately Tatum just ran out of gas in overtime as Melrose scored the first seven points of the extra period and went on to win the state title.
  But Tatum coach Mike Majors said it best about the effort Tatum put forth.
  "I could not be prouder. ... We've been a deep team all year but losing Monica and Kylie is huge," Majors said. "To do what we did, and a lot of coaches will criticize this, but this was a fantastic loss. It was unbelievable what our girls did. Talk about overachieving, we overachieved in this game more than any other team I've coached has overachieved."
  While both teams had strong senior leaders, they also have talented players returning and should make a run next season at the blue championship trophy.