McCurdy Bounces Back, Beats Escalante For Third Place At NRG

by Staff Reporter / Jan 10, 2018 / comments
The McCurdy Charter School boys basketball team took third place at the Northern Rio Grande basket ball tournament, defeating Escalante High School 54-51 Jan. 6 at Ben Lujan Gymnasium in Pojoaque. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

McCurdy Bounces Back, Beats Escalante For Third Place At NRG

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

After suffering their third loss of the season 76-61 to the Mora High School Rangers Jan. 5 in the semifinals of the Northern Rio Grande boys basketball tournament, McCurdy Charter School bounced back with a 54-51 victory over Escalante High School to claim the third-place trophy.

McCurdy came out smoking in the first quarter against Escalante and fashioned a 26-14 lead headed into the second quarter. The Bobcats led 38-27 at halftime Escalante came back and cut the lead to 44-38 heading into the fourth quarter. The Lobos were within three points of the Bobcats 54-51 with less than a minute left in the game. Escalante missed two three-pointers in the final 30 seconds that could have tied the game. McCurdy held on for the win.

“Our whole game plan was to push the tempo,” McCurdy Coach Ernesto Espinoza said. “We came out and did that in the first half. In the second half, we got a little impatient. It was a game of two different halves.”

With post Ubaldo Barela back in the lineup after sitting out 10 days and four after suffering a concussion against an earlier game against Mora, the Bobcats came out hot and took an 8-4 lead after Barela, Jacob Martinez and Kemmer Croff scored inside. That opened up the outside for guard Raul Arroyo, who drained three consecutive three-pointers. An old-fashioned, three-point play by Barela gave McCurdy a 20-11 lead. Baskets by Croff and Ernesto Martinez extended the lead to 26-13 before the end of the first quarter.

McCurdy’s Ubaldo Barela scores against Penasco. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Barela scored twice and Croff once to give McCurdy a 32-20 lead in the second quarter. Arroyo stayed hot and hit another three-pointer. Martinez got into the show with another three-pointer. McCurdy led by 11 points at halftime despite 14 first-half points by Escalante’s Justin Garcia.

McCurdy’s Kemmer Croff scores two of his 26 points against Penasco. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Escalante used a tighter defense and the shots from the outside stopped falling for Arroyo in the third quarter as the Lobos chipped away at McCurdy’s lead. An 11-3 run by Escalante cut the Bobcats lead to just three points 41-38 before Martinez dropped in his second three-pointer of the game to give McCurdy a 44-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Arroyo had hit four three-pointers in the first half, but was scoreless in the second half.

“In the first half we were getting open, setting our feet and knocking down shots,” Coach Espinoza said. “In the second half, we were rushing our shots.”

Garcia scored to start the fourth quarter, cutting McCurdy’s lead to four points. The Bobcats got a lift from Josh Esquibel, who banked in a pair of runners from the lane. McCurdy led 50-43.

Garcia wasn’t done and completed an old-fashioned, three-point play. He followed that with a pair of free throws to make the score 50-48 with three minutes left in the game. Mccurdy was able to look for good shots and got them when Barela and Croff scored to give McCurdy a 54-48 lead with 1:28 left in the game.

Escalante kept looking for a good shot, but finally Cortez Martinez launched a long three-pointer that hit nothing but net with 54 seconds left to play, making it a one possession game with McCurdy clinging to a 54-51 lead.

McCurdy had the ball and took time off the clock before calling a timeout with 29 seconds left. It backfired when after the timeout, McCurdy couldn’t inbounds the ball and was called for a five second violation. Escalante got the ball back.

Again the Lobos were forced to shoot a long three-pointer and once again Martinez was the shooter. His shot rattled the rim, hit the backboard and did just about everything but fall through the basket. Barela grabbed the rebound and was fouled.

McCurdy’s Adrian Vallo gets fouled going up for a layup against Penasco. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Barela missed his free throw on the front end of a one-and-one. The Lobos had one last shot, but Anthony Ulibarri’s three-pointer was off the mark and McCurdy had survived with a 54-51 victory.

The Bobcats had begun the tournament with a harder-than it-looked 82-56 victory over Penasco Jan. 4 in the opening round. After trailing 35-22 at halftime, Penasco had cut McCurdy’s lead to 50-42 heading into the fourth quarter.

McCurdy put the Panthers away in the fourth quarter, scoring 32 points to just 14 by Penasco. Croff led the final surge, scoring 10 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter. Jacob Martinez added 18 for McCurdy.

Against Mora in the semifinals, McCurdy played the first half like they did the second half against Escalante.

“We came out flat,” Coach Espinoza said. “The running Rangers ran all over McCurdy 42-23 in the first half and led 58-30 heading into the fourth quarter. McCurdy made the score a little more respectable by outscoring Mora 31-18 in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.

“We came out flat,” Coach Espinoza said. “We were shooting too quick. One pass, shoot and we weren’t getting rebounds.”

McCurdy faces Mesa Vista High School Friday (1/12) in Ojo Caliente.