By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
TUCUMCARI — When his more heralded teammates couldn’t help him, Jeremy Lopez helped himself and kept Tucumcari in control of its district destiny.
Lopez scored on a spinning layup with 9.3 seconds left in overtime, then played a role in both of Tucumcari’s baskets in the second extra session as the host Rattlers pulled off a 61-58 victory over Texico in Tuesday’s District 6-2A contest.
In a game that featured 11 ties and six lead changes, Lopez accounted for the final lead change with a jumper in the lane, then gave the Rattlers the lead for good when he found Aric Trujillo after drawing the defense in.
Lopez’ penetration made the difference for late in the game for Tucumcari (15-9, 3-2 district), which had to adjust its style after post Drew White fouled out. White sat out half of the second quarter and all of the third with three fouls, then drew his fifth foul at the end of the first overtime.
“We knew we had to penetrate and kick out,” Lopez said. “That was our game plan and coach had a lot of faith in us.”
White, who scored Tucumcari’s first seven points, still tied Lopez for the team lead with 17 points. When he was out, the Rattlers relied on penetration from Lopez and 3-pointers from whoever the Wolverines (13-11, 1-4) left open.
“We were spreading it out, attacking the gaps and creating some shots,” Tucumcari coach John Spann said. “We just tried to keep it within striking distance (with White in foul trouble).”
Texico coach Richard Luscombe pointed to buzzer-beating 3-pointers to end the first and second quarters, along with Lopez’ overtime layup, as key moments for Tucumcari, and admitted the Wolverines didn’t capitalize when they had those kinds of chances.
“We had 22 turnovers, and you’re not going to beat a good team with that many turnovers,” Luscombe said. “Credit those kids, they hit some big shots when they had to hit big shots.”
Aaron Vaughan scored 15 to lead the Wolverines while Daniel Scheuler added 14.
Both teams travel Friday night. Texico faces Santa Rosa, while the Rattlers face Clayton. Tucumcari needs a win to stay in second play in 6-2A.
“It’s big winning this game,” Lopez said. “We don’t need help from anybody but us.”
Texico 59, Tucumcari 34 (girls) — The visiting Lady Wolverines controlled from the start, outscoring the host Lady Rattlers 20-4 in the first period.
Texico coach Keith Durham felt his team had a balanced attack, and did what it needed.
Texico (19-6, 4-1) can wrap up first place in district with a win Friday night at Santa Rosa.
“We control our own destiny and we got one step closer,” Durham said.
Stephanie Bailey was Texico’s only double-figure scorer with 15 points.
Ten other players scored for Texico, including eight points from Faith Martin and seven from Stephanie Vega.
Tucumcari coach Alicia Trujillo felt her team played well, especially without starters T’Shawna Spann and Sidney Rich. In their place, Tucumcari started an eighth-grader and a freshman, which Trujillo said speaks well for the Lady Rattlers’ future.
“Texico’s a good team,” Trujillo said. “We always have trouble with them.”
Ashley Trujillo and Brandi Arenas each scored 11 to lead the Lady Rattlers.