Title hopes end for Dora, Melrose

Eric Butler

TEXICO — While Tuesday’s first day of the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference tournament may have been exciting for the tournament hosts, given that it was the first time for the event at one-year-old Texico Sports Arena, it was also an antsy day for the Texico boys basketball team.
After spending the opening day serving food at the concession stand, Texico players were pretty quick to dish out some points on Wednesday as the Wolverines raced past Dora 74-45 in their first contest of the tourney.
Texico (8-2) faces Melrose (5-4) in a 7:45 p.m. semifinal game on Friday at Greyhound Arena in Portales.
“We were up here watching the games. We were talking about it, too — it being weird for us to have games at our gym and us not playing,” Texico junior Braden Vaughan said.
Vaughan was a major part of the Wolverines’ fast start against the Coyotes. When he completed a three-point play with 4:13 left in the first quarter, Vaughan had already scored five points and grabbed five rebounds as Texico (8-2) jumped out to a 13-2 lead.
Finishing with a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds, Vaughan said the Wolverines’ loss to Jal over the weekend was extra motivation.
“Last game, we came out hardly ready to play,” he said. “This game, we wanted to make sure we got off on the right foot.”
Mark Peabody added 13 points for Texico, while teammates Johnny Rivera and Joe Zaikowski each chipped in nine.
Dora (2-7), playing without a single senior, was stifled by the physical Wolverines’ press and coughed up 10 turnovers in the first quarter. The Coyotes scored only their third bucket midway through the second period — after falling behind 28-4.
Texico opened up a 61-25 advantage after beginning the fourth quarter with eight straight points. Dora, led by sophomore Brent Hays’ 17 points, did have some bright moments after that as Hays, Zach Morrow and Clayton Stokes all popped in 3-pointers in the last four minutes.
“It’s a big, strong team that they were up against,” Dora coach Ty Thatcher said. “They were forcing us out of our offense with the defensive pressure.
“When you’ve got big, strong athletes coming at you all the time — and they’re running them in one after the other at you — the fundamentals have to be there. Every little flaw that a team has comes out when you play teams like that.”