By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
The 11-3 Texico Lady Woverines ended the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference Tournament looking more like a team ready for the playoffs than a team just about to start its league season. They hardly missed a beat as they defeated Elida 55-42 in Saturday’s championship at Greyhound Arena in Portales, collecting the EPAC trophy for the first time since 2001.
The only chink in their armor Saturday was third quarter foul trouble, which the Lady Tigers (12-2) were unable to exploit due to a solid effort from the Texico bench.
“They just play such a great man defense, it’s hard to get into your offensive game,” Elida coach Dan Howard said. “They’re in championship form.”
Texico coach Keith Durham didn’t agree totally with that assessment, but said he was happy his team had won the tournament.
“It’s certainly nice to win a basketball tournament,” Durham said. “But our goal is to get better every night. I don’t think we improved from last night (against rival Fort Sumner).”
After Texico held a 10-point advantage through most of the second quarter, leading 27-17 at the half, it looked like Elida might have found the key defensively as the Lady Wolverines had their longest dry stretch of the game to open the second half. Bryn Mayfield broke the ice with a resounding crack at the 5:30 mark of the third with a trey to give her team a 13-point edge.
Elida’s Jewlie Paiz answered right back with a 3-pointer of her own but Texico’s Lori Richardson hit a jumper and got an offensive rebound and put-back to make it 34-20.
Soon after that things looked like they might come unraveled for Texico as starters Erika Autrey and Richardson drew their fourth fouls each with only five minutes gone in the half.
Elida made a run early in the fourth after a pair of free throws by Paiz and a steal by Lindsey Bob Smith and follow-up shot by Paiz cut the Texico lead to nine. It was all the gas that Elida had left though, as the Lady Wolverines continued to hammer them on the boards, in particular offensive boards that turned into easy points for Texico.
Richardson led the Texico effort with 14 points while senior Stephanie Bailey scored 12.
Paiz was the sole Lady Tiger in double figures with 14 points. Lindsey Bob Smith had nine.
“We didn’t do a good job of blocking off the boards tonight,” Howard said. “That cost us a lot.”
Durham credited his bench with holding the line when foul trouble threatened, noting in particular the play of juniors Leslie Vannatta and Zandi Queener.
“We had our rough spots but when it came down to it we all pulled together like a good team should to get the job done,” Autrey, a Texico senior, said crediting teamwork for the win. “Basketball is hard for one person to do it all, you have to work together. The girls on bench really pumped us up tonight.”