The Pecos Panthers and Mora Rangerettes are getting plenty of practice hoisting tournament trophies this basketball season. Their fans can only hope that practice will come in handy in February and March.
Both teams earned titles Saturday, winning the boys’ and girls’ brackets in the Northern Rio Grande Invitational hosted at Pojoaque High School.
NRG girls’ final:
Mora 54, Dulce 46
Getting a balanced scoring effort from its lineup, the Rangerettes (9-1) jumped out early. They put the first 19 points on the board and forced the Lady Hawks to play catch-up the rest of the evening.
Mora led 19-3 after one quarter, although Dulce played evenly in the second to make it a 35-19 halftime tally.
The Rangerettes led by as much as 20 in the third period, and it was 44-27 entering the fourth. Dulce rallied to make the final score respectable, outscoring Mora 19-10 in the final stanza.
Destiny Pacheco paced Mora with 17 points; other leading scorers were Brianna Pacheco (14), Chantel Rivera (12), Gerdy Herrera (9).
Korey Dedios (13) and Alyssa Veneno (11) led Dulce.
It was Mora’s second repeat championship of the season; the Rangerettes also won the Lady Lion Classic in Santa Rosa for the second year in a row.
The Rangerettes got to the finals by beating Peñasco 66-25 and Mesa Vista 55-45.
Mora will host Taos on Thursday evening.
Pecos’ Lady Panthers (5-7) defeated Coronado 36-28 for fifth place in the girls’ consolation final. Ida Valencia poured in 21 points for Pecos, which trailed 10-6 at the break before outscoring Coronado 30-18 in the second half. Coach Leroy Barela and company play Laguna Acoma on Jan. 18.
NRG boys’ final:
Pecos 81, Mora 65
Johnny Vigil was Johnny on the spot for Pecos, burning the Mora defense for a game-high 33 points.
Unlike the rivals’ previous meeting, however, Mora kept it close much of the way. The pivotal period was the third, when Pecos’ seven-point edge broke open after a 22-6 run.
In addition to Vigil’s 33-point outburst, the Panthers got 15 from Darren DeHerrera and 10 from Brandon Quintana.
Cody Najar scored 20 to lead the Rangers, now 9-4. Amrick Vasquez had 19.
Under first-year head coach Russ Gilmore, Pecos is 11-1 and has three tournament titles to its credit. The previous two came in the Tularosa Basin Classic in Santa Rosa and one week ago at the Tri-Cities in Mora.
The Rangers saw progress in a week’s time, considering the Panthers had beaten them by 41 in the Tri-Cities final on Dec. 29.
“I feel like we gained some confidence and showed remarkable improvement cutting the deficit by more than half,” said Mora head coach James Branch, who noted that his club trailed only 42-35 at halftime. “We are optimistic, and now it is time to buckle down, roll up our sleeves and really go to work for the remainder of the season.
“We can take solace in knowing we can play with them and we make the necessary adjustments and continue to improve as the season progresses with our goal to be playing our best basketball by district, and hopefully peak come tournament time.”
Pecos reached the final by routing Coronado 84-21 and Escalante 85-40.
Mora got there by beating Mesa Vista 75-44 and McCurdy 74-48.