Texico’s Daniel Schueler goes up for a shot over Kyler Smith of Dora during Friday’s EPAC boys semifinal game at Texico. (CNJ staff photo: Rick White)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
TEXICO — The boys semifinal game of the EPAC boys basketball tournament between Texico and Dora was a little like a train trying to top a steep mountain. Once it got a little momentum, the ride was fast and exciting.
After a stagnant first half, the Wolverines moved into the EPAC championship by beating Dora 47-45 in overtime.
Texico (11-2) will play Elida (13-2) for the title as the Tigers beat San Jon 83-62 in the earlier semifinal.
The nightcap saw Dora take a lead of 15-12 over Texico into intermission as both squads struggled with shooting and turnovers. The Wolverines were the first to shake off the offensive rust as the home team scored 10 straight points in the last half of the third period to take a 26-19 advantage.
“I think we just got a little more patient offensively,” Texico coach Richard Luscombe said. “First half, we were just trying to force things.”
Dora (9-4) began the fourth quarter with a much greater sense of urgency as the Coyotes went on an 11-4 run to start the period and cut the Texico lead to only one.
“We try to focus on the fourth quarter — that’s the one that’s important,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “Our kids executed well and gave a lot of effort. That’s all I can ask for.”
Dora’s Casey O’Connor hit a pair of free throws with just over a minute left in regulation to tie the contest at 37-37. Texico missed a free throw with four seconds left and an ensuing putback attempt by Courtland Luscombe, the Wolverines’ point leader with 16, was errant at the buzzer.
In overtime, however, Luscombe didn’t miss. Scoring his team’s last six points of the game, Luscombe cut to the basket and scored on a fed Seth Bailey with 37 seconds left for the winning basket. The Coyotes had a pair of 3-point attempts in the last 10 seconds that went awry.
Kyler Smith led Dora with 13 points,
“They were coming at us hard still (in overtime), but we just had to take it to them,” Courtland Luscombe said.
The opposition in tonight’s boys finale will come from a team not used to such progress at this tournament. In fact, Elida coach Darrell Chenault, after his team assaulted San Jon with 3-pointers for the win, couldn’t recall the last time a Tigers squad had advanced so far at EPAC.
“They’re in there (the locker room) pumped up right now. There’s going to be some jitterbugs, but we’ve already been in two tournaments this year and we were fortunate enough to win both of those,” Chenault said. “Our kids are confident, so maybe confidence will outdo the butterflies.”
Against San Jon (5-5), Elida hit nine 3-pointers as Wesley Gilmore, Tom Sullivan, Caleb Widner, Ever Varela and Trenton Chenault — connected from long range.
With the game tied at 12 near the end of the first quarter, Sullivan hit a 3-pointer to start a 18-0 Elida run that put the Tigers up 30-12.
Gilmore finished with 29 points while San Jon’s Danny Shetter led his squad with 19.
“You figure they’ll miss one once in awhile, but they were hitting them pretty good. When they’re on, they’re on,” San Jon coach Jeremy Stoner said. “They just did a lot of threes that I just didn’t expect them to hit.”
Game 20: Grady 80, House 58, 9th place
Game 23: Elida 83, San Jon 62, semifinals
Game 24: Texico 47, Dora 45, OT, semifinals
Game 26: Logan (5-6) vs. Floyd (4-6), 7th place, 12:45 p.m., high school gym
Game 28: Dora (9-4) vs. San Jon (5-5), 3rd place, 4:15 p.m., high school gym
Game 30: Texico (11-2) vs. Elida (13-2), championship,, 8 p.m., high school gym