From The Bleachers: Mora Edges Pecos In The 68th Annual NRG Tournament
By Robert A. Naranjo
There have been some classic Northern Rio Grande (NRG) Basketball Tournament Championship games in the sixty-eight year history of the oldest basketball conference tournament in the state of New Mexico.
This year’s Championship game held Jan. 9 at Ben Lujan Gymnasium lived up to the thrilling NRG Championship games of year’s past.
Larry Lucero, of Española, one of two people inducted into the NRG’s Hall of Fame at the halftime of the Championship game, (The other inductee being former Dulce coach, Stanford Salazar, whom has the distinction of having coached both boy’s and girl’s NRG Tournament Champions, remarked after his induction ceremony, “…it was a surprise to me, I’ve been out of coaching for a while.”), said about the matchup between Pecos and Mora, “It’s going to be a barn burner, that’s for sure,” Lucero predicted as he monitored the eastern entrance to the Ben Lujan gym earlier in the day. He was absolutely right!
The Pecos Panthers and the Mora Rangers battled it out in front of a crowd of partisan fans from both communities in addition to NRG Tournament followers from northern New Mexico whom know that this tournament has a long history of exciting basketball that the North is famous for, and this matchup would be a good one. The 68th Annual NRG Championship game lived up to its billing and did not disappoint.
The game was close from the outset, with the teams exchanging leads but neither team even got close to pulling away from the other. And so, it came to pass, with 27.9 seconds left in regulation, the game was tied at 59 – nothing had been settled. When time clock reached zero, the Mora Rangers had won the 68th Annual NRG Tournament by a score of 62-59 with Lady Luck nodding in their direction that evening.
Both teams played like champions and would have represented the NRG Tournament well, but there can be no ties in basketball, and only one winner. Pecos, played hard and played well, but the ball just didn’t bounce their way at the end of this year’s NRG Championship game, but count on Pecos to be pursuing, next year, the one that got away. Congratulations to the Mora Rangers, players, coaches and the entire school. You earned a hard-fought and historic Championship Game of the 68th Annual NRG Basketball Tournament. Good luck in next year’s tournament defending your hard earned title.
The NRG, with sixty-eight years of hosting high school athletic competition in New Mexico, hosts another fantastic tournament this year for the young men and women whose schools make up the eight-team Conference. Congratulations are in order for the NRG officers, volunteers, Ben Lujan Gymnasium personnel, KDCE Radio Sports for live broadcasts, sponsors, and, of course, to the fans whom continue to support the oldest basketball conference tournament in New Mexico with its genesis in the beautiful Española Valley in1946, right after WW II. The NRG Tournament is exciting, historic and legendary, that is certain as it approaches its Platinum or 75th year!