By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer
Elida boys basketball coach Darrell Chenault says his kids began Saturday’s game nervous. After taking a fast 25-1 lead midway through the first period, the Tigers may be well advised to pack their nerves as they travel to the state tournament quarterfinals for the first time in more than 20 years.
The Elida boys ran Desert Academy out of town 72-29 Saturday afternoon at Elida High School in the 1A boys state tournament first round.
“The biggest thing we have to straighten up is our nerves,” Chenault said. “Our boys haven’t been to state in about twenty-something years and our boys were nervous. They were very confident but they were nervous.”
We finally loosened up and we started pushing the ball and got a lead,” junior Elida guard Wesley Gilmore said. “And after that it was just trying to play our game and not let them get back in it.”
After taking a 27-7 first quarter lead, the Tigers expanded their advantage to 46-13 at the half thanks to seven second period points each, from junior Ever Varela and sophomore Ryan Best.
Junior forward Tom Sullivan scored six of his 15 total points in the third quarter, to lead Elida to a 61-24 lead heading into the fourth period.
Sullivan’s 15 points was a game high, followed by fellow junior Trenton Chenault’s 14 points. Varella added 13, while Best contributed 9.
“We’re very excited,” Gilmore said. “It’s been like 20 years since we’ve been to state and especially now that the girls are going too, we can go and support each other, it’ll be real fun.”
“We know we’ve got to clean up our turnovers,” Chenault said. “We can’t have 15 or 20 turnovers, but we’re also very confident.”
With a berth in the 1A boys state tournament elite eight, Elida will travel to Albuquerque this week for a quarterfinal game. The New Mexico Activities Association will seed the 1A playoffs this afternoon.
“We’re excited about going,” Chenault said. “They could (seed) us as number eight and we’ll go play number one and give it our best try, we’re not worried about who we draw or anything.”