By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
ALBUQUERQUE — Dora knew it would have to contain Gateway Christian brothers Jevvon and Joshua Hunter in Saturday’s Class 1A boys state championship game at The Pit, and the Coyotes did that.
What they weren’t counting on was a dominating performance by burly 6-foot-3 senior Antonio Oaxaca.
Oaxaca (pronounced wau-HOCK-uh) went 9-for-9 from the floor and scored 25 points as the third-seeded Warriors pulled away for a 59-43 win over the Coyotes.
Dora (23-7), the tourney’s No. 4 seed, stayed with third-seeded Gateway until the final four minutes when the Warriors broke open a four-point lead with a game-ending 15-3 run.
Senior Raymond Vaz also had 10 points for Gateway (24-6). Sophomore guard Kyler Smith led the Coyotes with 18 points, while senior guard Casey O’Connor added 12.
“We had a great fourth quarter,” Gateway coach Rick Gentry said. “Dora’s a great team; I really respect them. And they have a great coach in Ty Thatcher.”
Senior guard Jevvon Hunter averaged 27 points in the first two games of the tournament, but managed just 10 in this one of 3-for-12 shooting. His younger brother, Joshua, scored five points.
That left it to the burly Oaxaca inside.
“We knew we had to try to shut down the Hunters,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t know No. 55 (Oaxaca) would have that good a game.”
Dora weathered four baskets in Gateway’s first four possessions, holding the Warriors to just two points over the final 4 1/2 minutes of the opening quarter.
The Coyotes took their final lead at 22-20 on a 3-pointers by Smith with 3:54 left in the half, but baskets by Raymond Vaz on Gateway’s next two possessions put the Warriors in front for good.
Two free throws by Smith kept the margin at 44-40 with 4:34 left, but that was the Coyotes’ last gasp.
“At that point,” Gentry said, “we decided to be smart and get the ball into big Tony.”
Thatcher said he thought his team’s best chance against the Warriors was to try to control tempo, and the Coyotes did that for the most part.
“In the games they’ve lost, they were in the 40 to 50-point range,” he said. “We did a good job of controlling the ball in the first half, but we didn’t communicate at times and we lost some guys on defense.”
While they didn’t score at their normal clip, the Hunters were each credited with five assists.
“We got the ball inside to (Oaxaca), and he took over,” Jevvon Hunter said.
Oaxaca said he was happy for the team’s four seniors.
“It’s great,” he said of the championship. “I told all the seniors I was going to play my butt off this week just for them.”
As for the Coyotes, five of their top seven players return and Thatcher, who led Dora to a 1A state title in 2003, hopes they can build on this year’s run.
“The best thing for our kids is the experience of getting here and giving ourselves a chance to win it,” he said.