Thursday, March 8, 2012

No. 1-ranked Las Cruces High falls in state tourney

(Photo by JR Oppenheim/For the Sun-News)

The Las Cruces Bulldawgs boys basketball team fell to Clovis 69-58 on Wednesday at The Pit in Albuquerque during the quarterfinals round of the Class 5A State Championships.

First off, this was not a shocking upset. Yes, LCHS was ranked No. 1 while Clovis was ranked No. 8, but the Wildcats have been coming on — they won big at Hobbs for the District 4-5A championship and have good guard play in John Dawson and DJ Blackmon.

It was an early-morning game — granted an unknown quantity that both teams had to deal with.

And going into the tournament we knew that LCHS wasn’t a lock to win the whole thing — about five teams had a legitimate chance at the state crown with the Bulldawgs figuring to be right there. Yes, they were the No. 1 seed, and yes they had the talent to justify such a ranking.

I DO NOT want to make the excuse that officiating cost the Bulldawgs the game, because both teams had to deal with a tightly-called contest with frequent whistles.

But could it have taken the Bulldawgs out of rhythm? Absolutely. Their point guard Joseph Garza picked up three fouls in the first half and his fourth late in the third quarter, which more than likely affected his play. That foul count is going to be in the back of your mind as a player and the Bulldawgs didn’t shoot the ball well during the contest.

Of course, the Bulldawgs had the game in their hands in the first half, jumping out to an 8-0 lead and holding a 29-22 advantage at halftime.

But Dawson came out and hit three big 3-pointers to start the second half to get the Wildcats back in the game and Clovis took a 43-42 lead late in the third quarter. They would continue to build on that lead in the fourth period, and the No. 1 seed was eventually knocked out for good.

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