The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Elida slowly building to contention


December 22, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Rylan Creighton, left, comes in for a double-team with teammate Colton Ferguson against Tohatchi's Marcus Tahe in Thursday's game at the Citizens Bank Tournament in Texico.

TEXICO — Four years ago, the Elida boys basketball program was in mothballs.

Since rebooting it in 2016, though, the Tigers have made steady progress. They entered this weekend’s Citizens Bank tournament with a 7-0 record and a pair of tournament titles, and ready to really challenge themselves.

Things didn’t go as planned on Thursday as the Tigers were overwhelmed by Class 3A Tohatchi 76-56. But Elida got back on the winning track the next day, scoring at least 20 points in each quarter and putting five players in double figures in an 89-68 consolation semifinal thumping of Class 2A Clayton.

On Saturday, the Tigers erased a double-figure deficit in the second half and overhauled Tucumcari 69-66 for fifth place.

“Every year we’ve gotten better and better,” senior guard Tyce Delk said. “The ultimate goal is the blue trophy (signifying a state championship). In my opinion, we haven’t done anything until we have that blue trophy.”

That’s certainly a bold goal for a program still in the process of developing again following a long dearth of boys at the Class 1A school. Still, if they were down after absorbing their first loss, it certainly didn’t show against Clayton.

“I knew when we got on the bus today, we had a different look,” first-year Tigers coach Jared Fraze said after Friday’s victory. “We weren’t scared.”

The Tigers were aware they were stepping up in competition at Texico, where virtually all of the schools are in higher classifications.

Tohatchi brought a 4-5 record into the tournament, but overwhelmed the Tigers with its quick and aggressive, wide-open style.

“You can tell it’s a step up — (players are) faster, stronger and bigger,” Delk said after the loss. “We just didn’t have a very good game today at all.”

From 2013-16, the Tigers were part of a co-op with Dora before restarting their program the following season. Under coach Logan Turnbow, they won four games that year and 11 the next before going 15-11 in 2018-19 and reaching the 1A state round of 16.

While the boys were struggling to field teams for years, the Elida girls were rolling off a bunch of small-school state championships in volleyball and basketball.

Now it appears it may be the boys’ turn, and Fraze said this tournament is just what his team needs.

“We played under duress (against Tohatchi),” he said. “We’ve got to learn from our mistakes. We’ve played a lot of games from behind, but this is the first time someone has taken a lead on us and kept us down.

“I knew it would be a challenge (against Tohatchi). If we did pull it off, it would’ve really been something.”

Against Clayton (3-5), the Tigers opened a 16-6 lead during the first quarter, saw the Yellowjackets pull to within three points late in the half and then dominated the rest of the way. They outscored Clayton 48-34 over the final two periods.

Sophomore center Rylan Creighton, who scored 22 points against Tucumcari to give him 74 for the tournament, sees nothing but positives from playing up in classification.

“I like playing bigger schools,” he said. “It makes us work harder.

“We have to learn from our mistakes. We know what we have to fix, and we’ll try to learn from it.”


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