RUIDOSO – Going into the final quarter in their game against West Las Vegas, the Ruidoso Warrior boys had a 47-42 lead.
It wasn’t comfortable, but it was enough breathing room for Ruidoso to not be too desperate.
Things changed in the fourth quarter, however, as the Dons were able to tie it up at 63-all and force the extra period.
The Warriors responded and rode a clutch performance by center Josh Romero for a 76-70 win.
“In that fourth quarter, we started turning the ball over and got a little overzealous,” said Ruidoso coach Billy Page. “You can’t do that against West Las Vegas, can’t take it for granted.”
Ruidoso (7-1) may have relied heavily on Romero’s 45 points and 15 rebounds, but Page was just as happy with how younger players like Brady Mendez, Aiden Huey and Caden Clevenger were able to perform.
“We’re still fairly young and we’re still working on and tweaking things in the game,” Page said. “My guys are believing in what we’re doing.”
Ruidoso was up by as much as 13 points in the first half, but the Dons (4-4) weren’t about to die.
By the break, they were able to get to within four points after a free throw by Dillon Gallegos, and were still within striking distance after the third period.
That distance shrunk to nothing when West took its first lead of the game with 4:19 left in regulation on a jumper by Diego Gonzales.
The lead went back and forth after that, and the Dons had a 62-59 lead with 1:18 left.
Ruidoso was able to retake the lead on a layup by Romero and free throws from Gabriel Dorame, but a late foul and free throw by Steven Sandoval knotted it up with 25 seconds left.
Sandoval had 13 points for West, while Jared Saiz led his team with 21.
A shot at the buzzer wouldn’t fall for Ruidoso, and it was on to overtime.
The extra frame started the same way regulation ended, but West’s foul shooting started to falter.
A steal and layup by Romero broke a 66-all tie with 2:11 left, and then it was a fouling contest.
It was ultimately this contest that determined the final outcome. The Dons went to the line 36 times, but still missed 12 free throws and were scoreless in the final 30 seconds.
Page was particularly happy for his younger players being able to come through in a pressure situation.
“We have to learn how to win games in a pressure situation like this. This was a really good win for us, Page said. “This will give us a boost of confidence when we go on the road to Cobre and Santa Fe Indian. I’d like to get into the holiday break splitting those two or sweeping. I think it’s possible.”