Foxes end Melrose’s winning streak

Fort Sumner’s Ross Cortese tries to split Melrose defenders Caleb Doss and Harvey Park during the first half of Friday’s game in Melrose. Cortese was called for traveling on the play. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Dave Wagner

MELROSE — No matter what Melrose did Friday night, the Buffaloes couldn’t get Fort Sumner to crack.

The Foxes took the lead for good midway through the second quarter, built a 14-point cushion through three periods and then survived shaky late free throw shooting to post a 66-59 win in District 3-1A boys play.

Senior forward Gerid Higgins’ 18 points led four players in double figures for the Foxes (9-11, 3-1 district), who avenged a 19-point loss to Melrose in the EPAC tournament. Fort Sumner pulled into a tie with the Buffs (11-6, 3-1) for second place in the district behind Floyd.

“My guards kept finding me on those fast breaks,” said the 6-foot-2 Higgins, who scored 12 of his points in the opening half. “It’s pretty easy to get baskets when they’re doing that. I thought we had some young guys who stepped up. (Sophomore guard) Derek Dimitroff took a couple of charges and had some good rebounds.”

In addition to a six-game overall winning streak, the Buffs had their 10-game homecourt winning streak snapped — dating almost a year to the day.

“We lost our composure and got frustrated,” Melrose coach Casey Pack said. “We were on a winning streak, and guys got a little comfortable.

“We’re usually the team that outhustles the opponent, but I give Fort Sumner credit — they outhustled us tonight.”

The Foxes’ only 3-pointers of the night started and finished a 16-3 run that extended a one-point lead to 48-34 late in the third quarter. Jameson West got it going with a trey from the left wing, and Ross Cortese capped it in the final minute with what turned into a four-point play after he was fouled.

“They’re a good ballclub — they fight to the end,” Foxes coach Dexter McDaniel said of Melrose. “But I’m pleased with my boys’ effort. This is one of the first times we’ve played four solid quarters, and that made a big difference.”

Fort Sumner also got 11 points from Ryan Fikany and 10 each from West and Cortese. The Foxes had 26 turnovers, one more than Melrose, but didn’t let the Buffs get many runouts.

“We’ve struggled with pressure; Pack’s team being a pressure team, we did a pretty good job,” McDaniel said. “Everybody stepped up tonight. It was a team effort.”

Senior Harvey Park and sophomore Carlos Ruiz led the Buffs with 16 points each, while junior post Caleb Dodd chipped in 14. But Park, Dodd and 6-foot-3 Chris Russell all fouled out, and Ruiz finished with four.

“I think (the fouls) definitely played a factor,” Higgins said.

Melrose was within 64-59 with a minute left, but never scored again. That allowed the Foxes to survive 2-for-8 free throw shooting in the remaining time.

Pack said the Buffs have their work cut out on Tuesday with a trip to Floyd, the team he used to coach.

“We’ve got to take care of Floyd on Tuesday, or we’re going to be traveling (in the district tournament),” he said.