By John Eisel
Unbeaten Fort Sumner appears to the favorite going into the 29th annual EPAC girls basketball tournament.
The Vixens (9-0) have the best record and one of the No. 1 seeds in the tourney, which brings together 10 area 1A schools for the double-elimination tournament today through Saturday at Texico High School.
“Fort Sumner is the team to beat. No doubt about it. They’re loaded,” Texico coach Buddy Little said.
“They’ve got to be the top dog, they’re pretty tough,” Elida coach Dan Howard added.
Five seniors return for the Vixens from last year’s state semifinal team. Fort Sumner has already beaten EPAC participant House by 38 points. They also beat then-undefeated Cimarron in the Santa Rosa tournament before toppling the hosts in the finals.
Grady coach Alicia Rush, whose team edged Fort Sumner by a point to win the 2004 EPAC title, is not ready to hand the Vixens the trophy yet.
“I’d assume it’s Fort Sumner, with how high they’re ranked in the state, but I think several teams could be (in the finals),” Rush said.
Including the Lady Bronchos who are 6-4 — with all four losses to Texas schools. Four seniors return from last year’s Class 1A runner-ups. They aren’t big, Rush said, but her team works around it.
“We have some girls that work hard and make up the difference doing fundamental things,” she said.
Grady is a No. 2 seed, along with Elida (7-3), which won EPAC in 2002 and 2003.
Point guard Casey Ford sets up the offense for the Lady Tigers and 5-10 senior post Adrienne Poe is the top threat down low.
Howard said a handling pressure is the key.
“As long as we take care of the ball, we’ll have success,” he said.
One of Elida’s three losses this year was Dec. 3 to Texico (57-52).
Unlike last year, semifinal and championship games will be held at Texico instead of Greyhound Arena because of scheduling conflicts with ENMU basketball.
Little thinks hosting the tournament could work in favor of the Lady Wolverines (7-2).
“It helps us quite a bit because we definitively play better at home,” Little said.
Texico has nine upperclassmen on the roster and freshman Faith Martin had one of the top scoring performances in the area last week with 17 points against Jal on Thursday.
“The kids that aren’t scoring are getting rebounds and assists, which makes for a combination that’s been pretty effective this year,” Little said.
Texico has the other No. 1 seed along with Fort Sumner.