The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE – Thousands of fans wore yellow and blue, waving signs and shaking pompons. It seemed the whole community of Penasco packed The Pit on Friday to cheer their Panthers in the state tournament.
Bobby Richardson scored 18 points and Manuel Velasquez added 14 to lead Penasco to a 62-52 win over Texico in the boys Class 2A semifinals, sending top-seeded Penasco (23-7) to face the Mesilla Valley-Estancia winner for the championship on Saturday.
With the Penasco girls also in the state finals, it’s a big weekend for the little town in Taos County.
“You saw our fans out there. The whole community is buzzing,” said Penasco boys coach Clarence Vigil, played on the school’s 1981 championship team _ its only state title.
The Panthers led 32-24 at halftime, and then Richardson kicked the offense into high gear.
Penasco launched a 12-2 run in the final three minutes of the third quarter, with Richardson scoring five. Martin Visarraga hit a 3-pointer to give Penasco a 49-36 lead going into the fourth.
Texico (23-6) got within 51-44 with 3:29 to play after an 8-2 run, aided by two baskets by Daniel Schueler, another by Courtland Luscombe and one by Casey Crist. But Schueler fouled out and the Wolverines fell behind 60-50 in the final minute.
The Panthers used a 7-2 run to seal the win.
Penasco got into foul trouble in the second quarter and Vigil had to put Richardson on the bench. But when he returned in the second half, Richardson didn’t play like he was worried about fouling out.
“I felt we had to come out and make a point. I don’t come out for myself. I come out for my team,” he said.
Texico coach Richard Luscombe said Penasco’s quickness and defensive pressure was too much for the Wolverines to handle.
“We didn’t manage the ball as well as we needed to. We just seemed to play a little tentative to their pressure,” he said.
The coach also blamed foul trouble for disrupting his team’s momentum.
“We lost Schueler. He’s our main leader. … We did get into foul trouble early and it hurt us quite a bit. We played the kids out of rotation and it took us a while to get adjusted,” he said.
Courtland Luscombe led the Wolverines with 18 points and 10 rebounds.