By Dave Wagner
CNJ SPORTS WRITER
RIO RANCHO — In two games of the Class 2A boys state tournament at Santa Ana Star Center, you probably could count the minutes the Texico Wolverines have led on the fingers of one hand.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, they’ve led at the right time — at the end. Senior forward Miguel Reyna scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while sophomore guard Brannon Karger added 14 points off the bench — all in the second half, 4-of-4 from 3-point range — as Texico outlasted top-seeded and previously unbeaten defending champion Laguna Acoma 63-59.
In Wednesday’s quarterfinals, Texico overcame a 13-point, second-half deficit to edge Santa Fe Prep 53-51.
The Wolverines (27-4) advance to Saturday’s 8 a.m. championship game at The Pit in Albuquerque against second-seeded Dexter (27-2), which erased a double-figure deficit in the second half to edge Texico’s District 4-2A rival, Clayton, 75-66.
Texico trailed until midway through the third quarter before pulling even 40-40, then tied it 47-47 as time expired in the period when Karger nailed his first basket of the day, a 3-pointer from the left wing.
It’s the third year in a row the teams have met at state and the second time Texico has won, both against undefeated Hawks squads.
“Obviously, Laguna’s good,” Texico coach Scott Karger said. “When you come to the state tournament, anything can happen.
“We felt like we gave up our No. 1 seed by losing twice in the last week (of the regular season) to Clayton, so we felt like we had something to prove.”
Reyna helped keep the Wolverines afloat with 16 first-half points. Senior guard Kendall Naceanceno, used at point guard extensively in the second half, finished with seven assists, many of them setting up 3-point shooters.
The Wolverines joined the school’s girls team in 2A finals. The Lady Wolverines also knocked off Laguna 35-26 earlier Thursday as Miguel’s younger sister, Brianna Reyna, delivered her own double-double (16 points, 13 boards).
“It’s a great feeling having two people in the family going to (the finals),” Miguel Reyna said, a sentiment no doubt echoed by the Kargers.
For the Hawks (29-1), it was a tough pill to swallow.
“They’re 82-4 over the last three years,” coach Scott Peil said of his squad. “They’ve got nothing to hang their heads about. We just didn’t have our best game.”
Senior guard Elijah Ruben got the Hawks off to a fast start, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 11 points in the first quarter. He finished with 18, while senior guard Deion Natseway added 16 points and junior forward David McGee scored 12 off the bench.
Brannon Karger said he was simply determined to pick up his play.
“I hadn’t played very well the first three quarters,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t playing to my best.”
After shooting 35 percent in the first half, Texico hit 12-of-24 shots and 6-of-12 3-pointers in the second half. Meantime, the Wolverines limited Laguna to 7-for-20 from the floor and 2-of-9 from long range.