EPAC starts today in San Jon

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

Texico’s boys and Fort Sumner’s girls begin defense of their 2004 titles when play begins today in the 10-school EPAC basketball tournament.

The first three days of the event will be hosted by San Jon, with games on Friday and Saturday scheduled for Eastern New Mexico University’s Greyhound Arena.

Teams are divided into two brackets. Eight games are scheduled for today, with the top seed in each bracket getting a first-round bye.

On the boys’ side, Dora leads the 3A bracket with a 9-3 record. The Coyotes will face either San Jon or Floyd, who meet at 4:45 p.m. today, in a 4:45 p.m. second-round game on Wednesday.

Logan’s 7-3 record tops the 4A bracket. The Longhorns have an 8:15 p.m. second-round game on tap Wednesday against the winner of today’s game between Melrose and House.

Top seeds for the girls are Elida (10-1) in 3A and Texico (8-3) in 4A. They face the winners of Grady-Dora and Melrose-Logan, respectively, in Wednesday games.

Texico’s boys (6-5) have made the finals in each of the last five years, also winning the title in 2001 and 2004. Veteran Wolverines coach Richard Luscombe said the tourney is up for grabs this year.

“We’ve seen just about everybody,” he said. “I think it’s probably the most balanced it’s been in quite a while. There are probably five teams who have a chance (to win the title).”

Texico has faced both top seeds at home this season — edging Logan and losing a close one to Dora. Meantime, Melrose (5-3) has played only twice since winning the Farwell Invitational in early December, but the Buffaloes are on a five-game winning streak.

Fort Sumner (5-2) and Elida (7-3) have also been playing well.

“Elida doesn’t have a lot in numbers, but their kids are pretty quality kids,” Luscombe said. “Logan has an awfully good team. I haven’t seen Fort Sumner, but they must be playing pretty well.”

Defending Class 1A state champion Fort Sumner (4-3) hasn’t played in 2 1/2 weeks, so coach Brian Fortner said he doesn’t mind a second seed in 3A and having a first-round game tonight against San Jon.

“I really don’t know where we’re at right now,” Fortner said. “We’ve had some long breaks between games, but I still feel we have a good shot to win it.”

Fortner said the Vixens, who have played all their games against Class 2A through 4A schools to this point, should be in contention with Elida and Texico for the title.

“I really feel like we’ve played the toughest schedule of anybody,” he said. “With as few games as we’ve had, I think it’s an advantage to play (tonight).”