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

By Dave Wagner
Staff writer 

Buffs overcome slow start


Last updated 5/4/2021 at 5:22pm

Jordan Alexander

Brandon Garcia takes a contested layup against Springer defender Jeremiah Apodaca in Monday's Class 1A quarterfinal at Melrose.

MELROSE - Melrose's boys may have been caught peeking ahead just a bit on Monday night.

No more, says Buffaloes junior forward Logan DeVaney.

Leading by just two points at halftime, the second-seeded Buffaloes erupted for 47 second-half tallies and eventually cruised to a 74-45 victory over Springer in a quarterfinal game of the Class 1A state basketball tournament.

The win set up a Tuesday night semifinal clash between the Buffs (12-0) and third-seeded Elida (11-1), which beat Evangel Christian 78-69 on Monday night. The winner was to travel to The Pit in Albuquerque for Thursday's championship game, at a time still not announced by the New Mexico Activities Association.

"We weren't ready to play," the 6-foot-3 DeVaney said. "We've been playing some big games lately. We overlooked them, and they gave us a game tonight. We can't do that anymore."

Melrose couldn't get any separation from the Red Devils (7-4) in the opening half. The Buffs led just 27-25 at the break, and had also lost 6-foot-6 senior Devon Bailey to an ankle injury during the second stanza.

No problem. The Buffs opened the third period on a 14-3 run, and the Red Devils - with just seven active players - may have simply run out of steam.

"We just seemed like we were in slow-motion (early), and it's kind of frustrating," Melrose boys coach Kevin Lackey said. "They did a good job offensively in the first half, but we switched defenses at halftime and that helped us."

The smaller Red Devils rely heavily on 3-pointers, but in the end Melrose had a 9-8 advantage in trifectas. Senior guard Trace Jackson drilled four of them, while junior guard Brandon Garcia added three en route to a personal-best 15 points.

"He's a good shooter," DeVaney said of Garcia. "If he's out there and we throw him the ball, he'll knock them down nine times out of 10.

"We're hard to stop. If you stop our post play, you leave Trace Jackson open, and if he doesn't do it (freshman) Michael Cardonita will hit one."

Senior post Tate Sorgen matched Garcia with 15 points, followed by Jackson's 12. Seven players scored for Melrose, all with at least seven points.

Only four players scored for Springer, led by 15 points from junior Jeremiah Apodaca.

Lackey said facing Elida, probably without Bailey, would be a challenge.

"We're a little broken down right now," he said. "We're in for a slugfest with Elida."

In other boys games on Monday:

Elida 78, Evangel Christian 69 - The Tigers got off to a quick start and overcame a 41-point outing by 6-foot-3, 172-pound senior guard/forward Isaiah Zunic of the Eagles.

Elida (11-1), which won its 11th in a row since a season-opening loss at Grady, led 17-5 at the quarter and kept sixth-seeded Evangel Christian (6-4) at bay behind a personal-best 26 points from senior Teagan Burton and 24 from junior Rylan Creighton.

"It was a good game, (but) I didn't feel like we played our best," Tigers coach Jared Fraze said.

He said Zunic collected most of his points going to the basket and got to the free throw line a lot.

"He's a good player," Fraze said.

Senior Moises Contreras added 16 points for Evangel Christian.

Jal 47, Texico 40 - The Panthers used a 12-5 run in the second quarter to take control, then fought off a late comeback bid by the Wolverines to advance to a neutral-court semifinal game tonight against third-seeded Pecos at Santa Rosa.

Sophomore Alexavier Carreon scored 13 points for Jal (13-0), while fellow sophomore Jacob Lujan added 10.

"I'm pretty excited," Carreon said of the 5 p.m. semifinal matchup with the four-time defending state champion and Texico's district rival. "It's been a crazy year with COVID and all that."

Jal coach Emmanuel Lujan said he would've preferred a more favorable site for his higher-seeded team.

"Going on the road is not a big deal, but I kind of wish we could've found a better neutral site," he said. "But we've got to get a win on the road, so maybe a four-hour ride will prepare us for a five-hour ride to Albuquerque (for Friday's finals) if we win."

Meantime, Texico (8-4) struggled to find the basket all night. The Wolverines cut a 14-point deficit early in the final stanza to six, but they ran out of time.

Senior David Davalos helped lead the Wolverines' late comeback bid, and scored 12 of his game-high 16 points in the second half.

"The second quarter killed us," Texico coach Craig Cook said. "We had too many easy shots that we missed. We just played tired most of the game.

"But a lot of credit goes to Jal. They've got some strong, physical guys."

Note: Peter Stein of the Hobbs News-Sun contributed to this report.


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