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Texico boys eliminated


March 17, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE – Texico’s boys basketball team made a go of it against one of the state’s elite teams.

The fourth-seeded Wolverines wanted more than just making a go of it in Friday morning’s State 2A semifinal at The Pit, wanted a return trip to the state championship game. They had to settle for a stirring comeback and, ultimately, a 73-67 overtime loss to top-seeded and defending state champ Pecos.

But they had gone down swinging. A little consolation for head coach Ty Thatcher.

“I feel like any time the season ends on a loss it's disappointing,” Thatcher said on Saturday afternoon, after having a day to absorb the season-ending setback. “But that was a team that we had seen before and we knew what we needed to do to win and put ourselves in that position, and it didn’t end that way. So that was obviously disappointing.”

Down by 12 against a team that had beaten them twice already this season and also in last year’s state title game at the same arena where they met again Friday, the Wolverines fought back. By the third quarter’s end Texico had closed to within 44-38. Pecos big Ismael Villegas had been hurting them inside, but Thatcher and his staff changed strategies to try and contain him.

“They consistently hit some inside buckets with Villegas, who is kind of their second post,” Thatcher recalled. “Villegas had an outstanding game for them inside. … We went to a complete front defensively on those posts, which gave them some problems.”

And with 21 points in the fourth, its highest-scoring quarter of the day, Texico forged a 59-all tie by the end of regulation.

“I’m proud of the ball pressure and the way we played man-to-man defense put us in position to make that run,” Thatcher said.

So on it went to overtime.

There, Texico actually took a 63-59 lead. Like trying to swim against the tide, Texico senior point guard Dalton Thatcher pushed the ball up against a throttling Pecos press. “The Pecos team consistently sends two guys at Dalton,” Coach Thatcher said, “and he pushed the tempo and dropped it off in the scoring area.”

Which helped Skyler Davis and Luke Phipps score consecutive buckets to put the Wolverines in control, at least temporarily. But a Pecos trey and a Texico turnover soon followed. “And we didn’t recover from that point,” Coach Thatcher said.

It didn’t help that in the extra period, Pecos shot 63 percent from the field, 67 percent from three-point range, while Texico shot 50 percent from the field and was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. In the game overall, Pecos hit 55 percent of its field goals and 53 percent of its threes. Texico shot 47 percent from the field, 22 percent (4-of-18) from downtown.

So the Wolverines ended their season at 23-8, enduring two losses apiece to Farwell and Santa Rosa and one to Fort Sumner, aside from the three against Pecos. Six-foot senior forward Isaac Ortiz had his final high school basketball season ended prematurely, when he suffered a leg injury in the first setback against Santa Rosa (60-53) on Feb. 16 at Texico Sports Arena, which put a dent in Texico’s rotation and its inside game.

Ortiz is one of five senior players who will depart. Dalton Thatcher, Davis, Cole Rohrbach and Josh Estes are the other four.

“Graduation makes it a difficult job being a high school basketball coach or a high school coach in general,” Coach Thatcher said. “But the thing that’s neat about it is watching these kids develop. It is exciting to see the kids that have that talent, they just don’t have that little edge the older kids have. But they gain that throughout the summer and the early part of their junior season. I’ve learned that you need some sophomores; they just can’t be in a super-large role sometimes. … But it’s going to be fun; there’s a lot of talent coming. Once this group of seniors moves on, there are some good things about to happen at Texico.”

Perhaps even sooner than next basketball season. Coach Thatcher — after having this hoop season abruptly ended, then having to serve as bus driver for the long ride back from Albuquerque — will now have to quickly pivot physically and mentally toward baseball season, as he tries to guide the Wolverines to a fourth consecutive state championship. Texico plays in the Cardinal Classic at Eunice, beginning Thursday.

“Even though it’s our spring break this week they’ll be busy on Monday, getting ready to make the transition to compete in a different sport,” Coach Thatcher said. “It’s definitely a transition; the kids have to figure out how to make it.”

Dalton Thatcher, Rohrbach, Luke Phipps and an almost-healthy Ortiz are the basketball players who will make that fast transition.

Baseball was already on their minds when they finally arrived back in Texico on Friday. And as the weary coach/bus driver saw the baseball complex, he felt a little better. Coach Thatcher says about $20,000 had been put into renovating the infield.

“That was nice to come home to,” he said. “So that first rattle out of the box when we do play at home will be a lot nicer.”


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