By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
It’s deja vu all over again for Texico. And again. And again.
For the sixth time in seven years, the Wolverines will face Hope Christian in either regionals or the state tournament.
“We’ve seen them quite a bit, probably more than what I’ve wanted to,” Texico coach Rich Luscombe said of Friday’s Class 2A regional semifinal matchup in Albuquerque.
The top two teams at regionals advance to the state tournament.
Hope beat Texico 91-60 last year in the state quarterfinals en route to its third straight state title.
However, Luscombe believes Hope Christian (19-9) isn’t as deep as its been in the past. Still, they have a lot of players that have been in this position before and know how to win, including three-year starter Nate Little, said Luscombe, who led Texico to the state title in 2001.
Luscombe is especially wary of 6-foot-5 forward Colin Byrd.
“He just one of those kids that can do just about anything,” Luscombe said. “You can’t contain him.”
The District 6-2A champion Wolverines (25-1) feature a balanced attack led by seniors Braden Vaughan, Logan Brown and Tony Clement.
Luscombe hopes Vaughan and Brown, both all-state football players, can use their strength to keep the taller Huskies off the boards.
Luscombe said the Wolverines need to control the tempo.
“If we don’t get impatient, we will get some really great shots.”
At Melrose, Buffaloes coach Casey Pack is hoping to wear down Cimarron in Friday’s Class 1A regional matchup with Cimarron, which typically only plays six players.
The Rams (13-13) finished second behind top-ranked Des Moines in district play.
“We’re definitely going to go up tempo and see if those six are going to last,” Pack said, adding Melrose (19-7) will run when they have the ball and press relentlessly on defense to force the Cimarron to speed up on offense.
Melrose’s Carlos Ruiz has led the Buffalo’s offensive attack, averaging 16 points, five assists and five rebounds a game.
“They don’t have a Carlos,” Pack said. “They don’t have a kid who can match Carlos.”
In the first game of the doubleheader at Melrose, Fort Sumner takes on Des Moines.
Des Moines’ suffocating man-to-man defense has carried the Demons to a 25-2 record.
Physically, however, Weems believes the Foxes (20-10) match up really well with Des Moines, especially in the middle, where the District 3-1A runnerup Foxes feature 6-foot-7 Matt West and 6-3 1/2 Tim Segura.
District 4-1A runnerup Grady doesn’t have it much easier, facing second-ranked Temple Baptist (15-2) Friday in Albuquerque.
Broncho coach Jim Kneipp knows his team is a big underdog.
“Nobody in the state expects you to win except us,” Kneipp said to his team. “You’ve got to dream the big dream.”
Everything for Temple Baptist revolves around 6-8 senior Tyler Baker, who signed to play for Division I Liberty University.
“You can’t stop the big kid. You’ve got to contain him,” Kneipp said. “It’s going to be tough.”
When Baker isn’t scoring, Temple guards are shooting 3-pointers.
Kneipp said he’s going to try to get Baker out of the paint when Grady (17-11) is on offense, by constantly rotating post players.
“It’s going to be a major uphill battle, but I’m looking forward to it,” Kneipp said.
Des Moines vs. Fort Sumner, 6 p.m.
Melrose vs. Cimarron, 7:45 p.m.
at Albuquerque High
Logan vs. Monte Del Sol, 5 p.m.
Temple Baptist vs. Grady, 6:30 p.m.
at Sandia Prep
Sandia Prep vs. Clayton, 4:30 p.m.
Texico vs. Hope Christian, 7:30 p.m.