A ferocious second-half rally wasn’t enough to rescue the Mora Rangers on Wednesday, and as a result, the seventh-seeded Tucumcari Rattlers made it to the Class 2A boys’ Final Four instead.
Tucumcari dictated the tempo and helped clog the usually high-octane Mora offense.
The Rattlers scored the game’s first eight points and led 12-1 after the first eight minutes.
It was extremely difficult to beat coach Hank Laumbach’s Rangers this year, and only two other teams had cracked the code — Class 3A contender Robertson and a heady Springer outfit.
Tucumcari did so with a combination of ball control, smart shooting and effective rebounding. The Rangers’ own shooting woes, coupled with the Rattlers’ tendency to grab most rebounds, prevented Mora from setting up its press.
That in turn complicated Mora’s attempts to get back into the game.
Jantzen Darnell led Tucumcari throughout the afternoon contest, and his shooting was particularly sharp early on.
After Mora’s Tyler Martinez scored on a putback — only the fourth field goal by the Rangers — Tucumcari’s Dalton Wood swished two free throws to close the first half with the Rattlers leading 24-10.
Wood did more damage in the third period, scoring six points as Tucumcari took a 39-20 lead.
Mora finally began to look like its usual self in the fourth period. Martinez drilled a three-pointer — the Rangers’ first — to make it 39-27.
There was more where that came from. Martinez (15 points total) hit a couple more times from distance, and the margin shrunk to 45-37. Andrew Lesse and Tim Romero both scored to get Mora within five points at one juncture. But Tucumcari hit its last four foul shots and held on to keep the upset intact.
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Wagon Mound’s Trojans were to play the top-rated team in Class B, Quemado, in one of two semifinals Thursday afternoon at Bernalillo High. That game took place after this issue went to press.
It’s been quite a successful week for the Trojans, who clinched their district title March 4 at home, picking up the No. 4 seed in the state tourney. Wagon Mound then cruised to a 75-57 rout of fifth-seeded Elida to reach the B boys’ Final Four.
Coached by Felipe Garcia, Wagon Mound includes senior Jose Garcia; juniors Jacob Castillo, Chris Cruz and Corey Muniz; sophomores Jose Aguilar, Rio Armijo, Eric Olguin and Geraldo Trujillo; freshman Gabriel Cruz; and eighth-grader Abel Moreno.