TULAROSA – When it came to the championship of the Johnny May Classic, Dec. 9, the fact that it came down to Ruidoso and Tularosa felt proper, right.
The two old rivals played an expected, high-pressure, up-tempo game, with the Warriors returning home with a 57-40 win and the championship trophy.
“I’m really proud with how they played in the second half, and from the outside looking in, we have some things to tweak and fix,” said Ruidoso coach Billy Page. “But it’s early. We may have looked strong, but there were some things we needed to work on.”
Despite leading almost the entire game, Ruidoso (4-1) didn’t really have the upper hand in this one until the middle of a low-scoring third quarter.
At one point, the Warriors had a 14-7 lead before Tularosa (4-1) took a time out. Coach Sergio Castanon’s time out worked, as the Wildcats had crawled back to within three on the strength of their outside shooting.
But it wasn’t enough to counter the strength Ruidoso had inside.
That strength came from forward/center Josh Romero, who stepped up his game in a big way in the second half with points and rebounds, finishing the contest with 29 points to lead the game and more than offset 14 points from Tularosa’s Gustavo Calderon.
“They’re a really tough team, and they can shoot on their home court,” Romero said. “We were focusing on stopping their three pointers, and we did a good job. Our zone did really well as a team.”
As a team, the Warriors shot 11 treys on the night, while Tularosa had just one score from beyond the arc in the second half.
Things were so low scoring in the third quarter, that Ruidoso was able to hold the Wildcats to a single point – a free throw by Josh Chavez.
“This was a very competitive tournament, and last night, against Dexter, they gave us everything they had,” Page said. “Tonight, we were just able to get out to their shooters and contest shots, defend the drive. That’s our philosophy.”
These already-familiar teams will face each other again this week on the same court, a regular-season game, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m.