Panthers favored as they play the Rangers for the ninth time in three years, and Penasco is the pick against Dulce
By Arnie Leshin
It wasn’t too long ago that Pecos lost three times to Mora. That was in 2015-16. But things have changed over the past two years, with the Panthers turning back the Rangers five times in a row.
Last season, it wasn’t much of a contest. It was the time that Pecos won its first state championship since 1966 by hoisting the 3A trophy. And against Mora, the wins were 95-74, 80-69, and 66-45. And this season, it was the Panthers victorious by 89-49 and 98-61.
Now they meet up again in tonight’s final of the annual Northern Rio Grande basketball Invitational where the court is very familiar to both teams, and that’s Pojoaque Valley where the Panthers recently won the Ben Lujan Memorial tournament, and where Mora was also an entry.
So this will be the ninth time that the two schools have met the past three years.
This time, it was the Rangers advancing to 8-6 by turning back Espanola McCurdy, 76-61, and dropping the Bobcats to also 8-6. Then Pecos handed Escalante a 80-50 setback to put their mark at 11-2 as the Lobos fell to 7-6.
In the consolation games, Mesa Vista won by 58-35 over Questa and Dulce got past Penasco, 69-62, in overtime, to pair the winners in the 5th place game and the losers for seventh.
The scheduled start for the championship game is 7:30. It follows the girl’s final that matches Penasco (11-3) against Dulce (9-4) at 6. In the semis, it was Penasco 59-24 over Mora, and Dulce over McCurdy, 54-33.
In the girl’s consolation contests, Pecos (7-3) took a 55-34 win over Questa (5-9), and Escalante (5-6) won over Mesa Vista (2-12). The Panthers play for 5th place versus Escalante, and Questa and Mesa Vista play for seventh.
With leading player, junior Cassie Muller, still sidelined with a knee injury, Pecos picked up impressive performances from freshman forward Trinity Herrera, who scored 15 points, 11 from freshman point guard Lexi Gonzales, and 10 from junior guard Brittany Martinez.
The Pecos boys opened up a 10-0 lead that became 22-14 in the second quarter, and then erupted into a mismatch. Junior wing Omar Dominguez paved the way for the Panthers with 15 of his 18 points coming in the first half. Eight came via a 23-5 first half run.
This, and the Pecos pressing defense, brought a 52-24 advantage at halftime.
Mora, too, took an early lead at 17-6, and it was 19-12 at 6:02 of the opening quarter and 42-23 at the half. Carlos was the Rangers’ leading scorer with 24 points, Jerome Pacheco added 17, and Alonso Aragon tossed in 11.