JACONA — Mora and Pecos are the final teams standing in the championship round of the 64th annual Northern Rio Grande Tournament.
The Rangers and Panthers will square off in tonight’s title game, at 7:30. Dulce and Mesa Vista play at 6 p.m. in the third-place game.
MORA 54, DULCE 53, OT: The Rangers squandered a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter, going scoreless for the final 3:17 of regulation. But they had just enough offense in the extra period to advance to tonight’s title game.
“I told my guys in the locker room, even though you may look dejected, be thankful for the victory because we could be in that other locker room with a loss,” Mora coach James Branch said.
In that other locker room, Dulce coach Stanford Salazar was indeed consoling his players.
“We got back into the game and tied it against one of the best teams in the state — I was real proud of my boys for that,” he said.
Mora went 3 for 6 from the foul line in overtime, with Garrick Martinez scoring three of his five points to seal the win. Dulce completed just one field goal and two free throws, and lost a chance at the end when a Dominick Panzy 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
“I was nervous,” he said of potentially losing on a final shot. “I’ve seen it happen — I see it on ESPN all the time. I didn’t want an ESPN moment.”
But while Branch was spared a loss, Mora’s best sixth man, junior Cody Najar, suffered a knee injury during the contest and is questionable tonight.
“He’s a big part of our rotation,” Branch said. “… So obviously not having him will hurt us.”
Pecos was led in scoring by Lorenzo Chavez with 18 points, followed by Jose Trujillo with 13. Panzy led all scorers with 19. Craig Harrison was the Hawks’ other top scorer with 12 points.
PECOS 62, MESA VISTA 59: District 2-2A rivals, Panthers (9-1) and Rangers, will square off for the second time in two weeks, but in getting to tonight’s finale, the Trojans gave Pecos just about all it could handle.
Mesa Vista led by as many as 10 points in the opening period before Pecos closed to within 35-30 at the break. And by midway in the third period, it was anyone’s ballgame.
“We knew we just had to continue coming at them… I just told my guys (at halftime) that we still controlled our destiny. It isn’t going to come slowly, and it will take work,” Pecos coach Clyde Sanchez said, “but we can get back into this.”
Which they did, with the Panthers taking the lead for good early in the fourth quarter. Still, while Pecos stayed a step ahead of the Trojans (6-7) for most of the fourth quarter, difficulties from the foul line plagued the Panthers, who hit just 7 of 14 for the contest.
Sanchez, whose squad hit just 13 of 25 in its opening-round win over Peñasco, said, “Before this tournament, we were pretty good — I don’t know if it’s the crowd or the atmosphere, but we’ll have to do a better job against Mora.”
The Trojans also stumbled from the foul line, hitting just 2 of 7 in the fourth quarter. With the loss, Mesa Vista will also face its own rival and District 7-2A-mate Dulce. While Trojans coach Thomas Vigil said his players took the loss hard, he added that this is the perfect time to see how well they respond to adversity.
“The season is still young, and this is a good tournament to help us get better,” he said.
PEÑASCO 58, CORONADO 50: Three players scored in double figures to lead the Panthers to today’s 5th-place game against Escalante at 2:30 p.m.
Peñasco trailed 27-23 at the half but out-scored the Leopards 21-16 in the third period to take the lead for good. Josh Gurule scored nine of his 11 points in the decisive period. The other top scorers for the Panthers were
Darren Rodriguez, with 14 points, and Roman Romero, with 11. Stetson Schmitz and Kevin Martinez paced Coronado with 18 and 17 points, respectively.
ESCALANTE 41, MCCURDY 39: In a see-saw contest where the Lobos trailed 8-7 after the first period, led 18-16 at the half, and entered the final period knotted with the Bobcats at 25 apiece, Brandon Gonzales scored six of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to help the Lobos earn the narrow win.
Isaiah Lopez and Carlos Herrera led McCurdy with 14 and 11 points, respectively. With the loss, the Bobcats will take on Coronado in the seventh-place game at 1 p.m.