By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
BERNALILLO —Neither Fort Sumner or Magdalena could have been excited to face a one-loss team in the first round of the state playoffs. But it’s more likely that the Steers will have more lasting regrets after Fort Sumner took a 61-44 win in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state tournament.
At Bernalillo High, the Vixens broke away from a 14-14 tie near the end of the first quarter and never looked back as Fort Sumner (26-1) moved into the semifinal round.
“That’s us. You just saw the Vixens,” said Fort Sumner coach Brian Fortner, whose team suffered through a poor shooting night in its last outing — its only loss of the year — against three-time defending state champion Des Moines on Saturday.
Although Fort Sumner hit 6 of its 10 shots from the floor, the Vixens didn’t take the lead until the final 1 1/2 minutes of the first quarter. After Magdalena’s Beth Carolus converted a teammate’s miss to tie the game at 14-14, Sandy Fortner hit a pair of free throws for the Vixens and Tobea Patterson finished the quarter with a baseline jumper.
To start the second period, Fort Sumner’s Kayla Britain was fed for inside baskets by Patterson and Fortner, putting the Vixens went up 23-14.
Magdalena (27-2), led by Kelly Armstrong’s 14 points, were never able to come any closer.
“We were so ready. I mean, Magdalena’s a good team, but we knew what we had to do,” said Patterson, who finished with 12 points.
Fortner had a team-high 14 points and severely damaged Magdalena’s comeback hopes in the second half. With Fort Sumner ahead 39-24 early in the third quarter, Fortner bombed in a 3-pointer and was fouled. She converted the ensuing free throw and Fort Sumner had its biggest lead at 43-24.
“It’s funny because me and Lindsay (Mansell) were talking before the game about making a 4-point play,” Fortner said. “And then it happened.”
Mansell and Kelly Fortner finished with 11 points for the Vixens, who advanced to the semifinals for the second year in a row. Last year, eventual champ Des Moines knocked Fort Sumner out in the second round.
“We’ve grown a lot this year. We’re a lot more experienced,” Patterson said.