By Arnie Leshin
It figures to be a tough week for Ron Drake’s Pecos girls. Weather-wise, the forecast for Monday and Tuesday is snow. On Tuesday, the Panthers will be traveling to red-hot Penasco for a non district test.
Also known as the Panthers, Penasco’s last loss was 57-55 to Pecos back on January 5 in the championship game of the Northern New Mexico Rio Grande tournament. Since then, Penasco has won 11 in a row against a mediocre field.
How mediocre? Well their five victims in District 5-2A are a combined 57-75, none are over .500, and Mora is the closest with its 11-11 overall record. In the basement is Coronado at 2-21.
But a W is a W, and with its 20-3 overall record, Penasco is ranked second in 2A. Just ahead of it is Texico (20-3), which has also won its last 11 starts.
Right behind it is Pecos (19-4), and there in lies the difference in their respective districts. The Wolverines and (Pecos) Panthers are the top two programs in the new District 7 comprised of four schools.
And that’s where Drake’s tough week will start and finish. Penasco on Tuesday, weather permitting, and a 4 and one half hour Texico visit to Pecos on Friday. That brings together the top three teams in 2A, and Pecos has already played both of them, the other Panthers in the tournament at the Pojoaque Valley court, and the tight 55-53 setback at Texico.
Pecos has never hoisted the basketball blue trophy, the Wolverines have handled it eight times, and said to be favored to win it again. But the Panthers can’t be taken lightly after taking Texico to the final buzzer. Now if Pecos wins Friday, there will be a playoff game played at the district’s Santa Rosa court. Currently, the Wolverines are 5-0 and the Panthers 4-1.
Not only does a long-time head girl’s coach like Drake have to prepare for two quality teams within a span of four days, but he is down to only seven players, which he employed in the 41-34 win at home over district foe Clayton Saturday.
“We rolled over Clayton at their place,” said Drake, “but this time it was a different story. We had injuries, illnesses and a personal matter, and I don’t know who will be available this week.”
Another thing that is on his mind is the third quarter. In the Penasco game, he was outscored 20-12 in those eight minutes. In the Texico game, it was 14-5. Even the Yellow Jackets joined in by outscoring Pecos, 14-5, in quarter three.
“It’s a mystery”, Drake said. “Maybe I shouldn’tsend them to the locker room at halftime, and just keep them on the court.”
All he’s certain of is his team making the state tournament. Last season, it lost by 20 points to Texico in the quarterfinals, and he would no doubt like to get to state with a healthy roster.
But the previously unbeaten Texico boys weren’t as fortunate, losing to Pecos by 18 points in the 2A championship game, the second in a row for the Panthers. And in the second game of the doubleheader this season at Texico, it was Pecos by 31 points.