By Dave Wagner
Temple Baptist’s next close game this season will be its first.
The defending Class 1A state runnerup Roadrunners have cruised to a 29-0 record heading into today’s 8 p.m. 1A boys state quarterfinal match against Floyd at Albuquerque’s Valley High School, and only one — a nine-point verdict against Magdalena — has not ended in a double-figure spread.
James Adams, Temple’s 12th-year coach, doesn’t mind the tag of tournament favorite.
“Anything can happen, but if we come out and play our game we’re going to be tough to beat,” said Adams, whose then-sophomore-laden squad took Dora to the final few minutes before losing to the Coyotes 80-65 in last year’s 1A state final.
“We kind of shocked a lot of people last year,” Adams said. “Our sophomores peaked at the right time.”
Also tonight, Melrose (20-8) faces off against Tatum (23-8) in an 8 p.m. tipoff at Rio Grande High School.
In 4:30 p.m. quarterfinals, Animas plays Des Moines at Valley and Springer tests Quemado at Rio Grande.
Temple Baptist provides a tall order for Floyd (20-8) — but then just about everybody is a tall order for the smallish Broncos, who have only one player above 5-foot-10.
Floyd relies heavily on outside shooting. The Bronchos made 16 3-pointers — seven by sophomore guard Jerrod Long — in a 14-point Region B semifinal win over Monte Del Sol but just two the next night in losing to Melrose in the championship game.
“We’re going to have to shoot well,” Broncos coach Jeff Gillespie said. “If we shoot the way we did on Friday we’ll be OK; if we shoot the way we did Saturday, it won’t be a game.”
Temple Baptist’s top players, both juniors, are 6-7, 170-pound forward Tyler Baker and 5-10 point guard Will Hamlett. Between them, they average nearly 37 points a game and have combined for 110 3-pointers.
Gillespie said he’s talked to a number of coaches about the Roadrunners, including Dora’s Ty Thatcher.
“He gave us some ideas of what they did (last year),” Gillespie said. “I was actually at that game, and I didn’t remember Temple was (close) until the last five minutes.”
Melrose will try to build on its Region B championship in what Buffaloes coach Casey Pack thinks will be the best 1A game of the day.
Senior guard Art Castro leads a balanced Coyotes attack, averaging around 13 points a game.
“Whoever gets through the jitters quickly will be OK,” Pack said. “They like to run and press; they do some of the same things we do. And we can’t let them get on a streak with the 3-ball.”
Tatum coach Curt Stephens expects a tough, defense-minded battle.
“They play hard,” he said of the Buffs. “I’ve played against Casey Pack teams before. We’ll try to adapt and see what happens.”
Tatum gave Temple a good run in last week’s Region D final, trailing by just four points at halftime in a 54-43 setback.
Stephens said the Roadrunners are beatable, but a team will probably need an exceptional game.
“It’ll take a real disciplined team that’s shooting extremely well,” he said. “We shot 60 percent against them last week and lost — they shot 70 percent.”