By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
It’s fair to say the Melrose Lady Buffaloes have their work cut out in today’s Class 1A state tournament quarterfinals.
The Lady Buffs have the only losing record (13-17) of the 80 teams that qualified for various state quarterfinal play. And their opponent is Tatum (28-1), which went unbeaten en route to the 1A state volleyball title in November and has won 28 in a row in basketball since a 45-42 loss at Texico in the season opener.
Melrose coach Jason Lee is philosophical.
“There’s no easy draws at state,” he said of the 3:15 p.m. matchup at Del Norte High School.
Meantime, Texico (23-6) has the second seed and plays Mora (18-10) in a Class 2A girls quarterfinal game at Eldorado High School.
Tatum beat Melrose 60-36 on Feb. 4 in Melrose.
“We need to do a better job of stopping their transition game,” Lee said. “They got a lot of easy baskets against us.
“We know we’re better than what we were when we played them before. I guess we’ll find out how much better.”
Coached by Clovis resident Mike Majors, Tatum could be trying to complete a two-sport unbeaten run if not for its narrow loss to Texico. The Lady Coyotes led 20-8 at halftime, but the Lady Wolverines stormed back with a 21-4 run in the third quarter.
Tatum later narrowly avenged that loss at home, nipping Texico 41-40.
Lady Wolverines girls coach Keith Durham said seeds may not mean much in the 2A tournament. The Lady Wolverines are seeded behind only Penasco (25-4).
“I really believe any of the eight teams could win it all,” Durham said. “I visited with a couple of people about the seeding process, and they said you could have drawn straws to do it.
“Whoever wins the tournament will have to play three good games.”
Both teams are playing in the state tournament for the first time in four years, Durham said. Senior Stephanie Bailey is the only Lady Wolverines player with previous state experience — she helped Grady reach the 1A final three years ago before transferring to Texico.
Winners today return for semifinal action on Thursday — 1A games at Del Norte, 2A contests at Cibola.