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Seventh heaven: Elida streak continues

Tigers are one title from tying Kirtland Central's state record


Last updated 3/11/2017 at 7:53am

Christopher Cook

Elida guard Lacy Ferguson pushes the ball down the floor against the defense of Melrose's Landry Widner in Friday's Class 1A championship. Ferguson had nine points and seven rebounds in Elida's 49-38 victory. The Tigers claimed their seventh-straight state title, one short of the record set by Kirtland Central from 1980 through 1987.

ALBUQUERQUE — A familiar 1 vs. 2 battle turned into the extension of a very familiar theme.

In their fifth meeting of the season between the Elida Tigers and Melrose Buffaloes, Elida took the one that mattered, toppling Melrose 49-38 to win their seventh-consecutive small-school basketball title.

With the win, Elida (26-6) won its third consecutive Class 1A championship following winning the crown all four years in New Mexico's former Class B. Another title in 2018, and the Tigers tie the record streak set by Kirtland Central from 1980-87.

""I don't think it can ever get old," Elida coach Jaden Isler, who won his third straight after taking over in the wake of his father's fatal car accident in 2015. "it takes so much work and so much time and takes you away from important things like family.

"But you put the time in so you can have the moments like these."

Taylor Epps filled the stat sheet for the Lady Tigers, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Madison Haley collected 10 boards and nine points, as the duo caused problems down low for the second-seeded Lady Buffs all game.

Melrose's Reagan Carthel turned in quite an effort, gathering a game-high 12 rebounds to go with her 15 points. The most stark difference was shooting, where Melrose finished just 26 percent from the field and 38 percent from the line.

Melrose coach Caleb King attributed the team's struggles to poor shooting from the foul line, especially at crucial moments.

"There were stretches where we played really good defense and we would get it where we could run the floor and get easy buckets," said King. "What really killed us in the third quarter was missing free throws — we were getting the shots we wanted inside and getting to the line, but couldn't make the free throws."

Elida's size caused issues for the Lady Buffs throughout the contest and while the rebounding was almost even, 49-47 in favor of Elida, the Lady Tigers were converting their boards into second- and sometimes third-chance points.

"It's always going to be hard with that type of size (for Elida) to get second-chance opportunities," said King. "We did get some, we just didn't put them back."

While Melrose made several runs during the third quarter to cut Elida's lead to single digits, each time the Lady Tigers answered to push the lead back to double figures.

During its state title run, the Tigers have a UConn-like 106-2 record against their own classification. The only two losses came this year against Melrose, which had a two-year title streak of its own in Class 2A before realignment pushed it down a class.


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