By Arnie Leshin
Ira Harge, Jr, has done a remarkable job as head coach of the Pecos boy’s basketball program.
It would make things somewhat easier if he had a veteran group over, let’s say, the last three years, but that’s not so. As he goes from back-to-back
state 3A championships in quest of one in 2A this time, he again had to do so with virtially a new roster.
Nothing new. In 2017 after winning state over rival Santa Rosa, he had to replace three quality players, all who play Pecos ball … run, shoot, defend and crash the boards.
But with some new arrivals, the beat went on when it turned back previously undefeated Texico in last year’s state final. Now the Wolverines and Lions joined the Panthers in the new four-school District 7-2A with Clayton, the reigning state 3A football champion. And none of them has a win over Pecos.
And now in a season that was thought to be a rebuilding one, Harge goes from back-to-back 3A state titles in quest of one in 2A. His team has rolled to an overall record of 23-3 and has won a dozen in a row after losing back on Jan. 8, 72-67,to Mora in the final of the annual Northern New Mexico Rio Grande tournament.
And the only reason Mora played Pecos was because they both landed in the tournament final. In two previous games between the two, Mora was dominated 72-47 and 83-59.
Saturday the Panthers won their fourth straight district title by turning back Santa Rosa, 60-39, after the Lions won over Texico in the semifinals.
Newcomb had been ranked No, 1 in the state ranking, but Pecos was named the top seed for the state tournament.
Rebuilding? No way. Last season had Harge losefour key players to graduation. But he returned 6-foot junior guard Omar Dominquez and who he teamed with talented sophomores Anthony Armijo and Xavier Padilla.
Now Dominquez runs the show as team captain and the 5-9 Armijo and 6-1Padilla display their versatility. Plus Harge again has a quality benchand all contribute.
This comes with youngsters coming out seeking to hoist the championship blue trophy. No doubt many of them looked on at the Dreamstyle Arena as the Panthers celebrated another title to join with the cross country won by both the girls and boys, as well as in track and field.
Which equals good coaching and talented youngsters.