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Late push sends Tularosa into finals

Win over Bobcats sets up district battle for 2A honors 

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By Glen Rosales
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History is a tough thing to buck but Tularosa is giving it a shot.

“Tularosa has been after a state championship since 1922,” said Wildcats coach Eric Gutierrez. “We’ve never won one. It’s history for us, Tularosa. There’s been a long line of other good players who have tried to get it. Other goods teams haven’t been able to get it.”

Third-seeded Tularosa will have that chance make history after reaching the championship game for the sixth time with a 67-63 victory over No. 2 Hagerman.

“We were pretty evenly matched teams,” Gutierrez said of the Bobcats (25-5). “They’re a tough, tough team and they’re very competitive and they gave us everything we wanted today. We just wore them down.”

Indeed, the teams raced off to a ridiculous start, turning the court into a track as Hagerman grabbed a 21-20 lead.

It’s the type of game that the players enjoy.

“It was fun out there,” said Tularosa forward Carson Carillo, who had a double-double 16 points with 11 rebounds. “We feel free out there. Everybody’s giving everything they’ve got. Both teams want it as bad as each other. It’s just a battle, it’s March Madness.”

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That pace was bound to take its toll.

“I think we just had a hard first quarter,” Bobcats coach Anthony Mestas said. “Everybody was a little tired. Our shots didn’t fall in the second quarter.”

It looked like two different team took the court for the second quarter as the Wildcats (21-7) won the frame 8-4 to take a 28-25 lead into the halftime.

“I think it just evened out after that first quarter,” Gutierrez said. “They were lights out in that first quarter. It’s how basketball works. I knew they couldn’t stay that hot for that long. We made a little adjustment on our defense. We put one of the Coleman boys on (Isaac) Bejarano and I think that made a big difference, too.”

Bejarano still finished with 15 points, but that was significantly better than the first time the teams played as he lit up the Wildcats for 30 points. Edward Montoya ended up leading Hagerman in scoring with 21, 17 of those coming in the second half. By contrast, Bejarano had just two after the break.

“We made some minor adjustments defensively,” Gutierrez said of halftime. “We’re not going to do anything differently offensively. We maybe talk about matchups. We’ve been doing this in practice for so long the adjustments kind of come naturally for them.”

Although the Wildcats are going for history, it was not unexpected.

“It’s very satisfying, but the job ahead is not over,” Gutierrez said. “We anticipated being in this position. This has been a 10-month journey for these guys.”

A big key was the rebounding, which the Wildcats dominated to a tune of 53-31.

“We just weren’t boxing out,” Mestas said. “We were getting pushed out of the lane. We weren’t boxing out like we were supposed. We had two guys trying to rebound on the defensive side. And the rest of the guys were kind of looking around.”

BACK TO THE BRACKET

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