New Mexico Class 2A

Ramah wins district title, gets snub by selection committee

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

RAMAH, N.M., March 7, 2013

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

Ramah's Todd Etsate (2) lays up the ball for two as Navajo Pine's Colin Tompson (33) looks on Saturday in Ramah. The Mustangs won, 65-51.

T he predominate storyline heading into the New Mexico Class 2A state boys' basketball championship is the amount of respect, or lack thereof, teams from the northwestern side of the state received.

As one of the largest leagues regardless of classification, the District 1-2A got only two teams dancing this year.

"We got the fourth best record in 2A basketball and we won our district championship so I definitely expect to host a first round game," Ramah coach Boyd Lewis said last Saturday after his club ended Navajo Pine's season with a 65-51 win.

But less than 24 hours later, Lewis' team was granted the No. 14 seed despite a 22-5 record. On Saturday the Mustangs will hit the road and will play at No. 3 seed Dexter. At 24-3 the Demons have the third best record in 2A.

To add insult to injure the district's regular season champion was awarded the No. 12 seed as Tohatchi will open up postseason play at No. 5 Texico.

At press time, Tohatchi coach Albert Jim was unavailable for comment.

While Tohatchi and Ramah punched their ticket into the tournament by finishing atop the district standing during the regular season, the Warriors were hoping to get an at-large bid.

"I am praying, but I don't feel too good about it," Navajo Pine coach Doranci Poyer said when asked if reaching the championship game last Saturday was enough to sway the selection committee.

"If we had won tonight this would have been our guarantee," he added. "That was what we were hoping for."

For one half of play, the young Navajo Pine squad showed plenty of spunk to carry out those plans by making seven of their first 10 shots.

Junior guard Shad Etsitty and senior forward Casey Benally got it started by hitting back-to-back treys for a 6-0 lead. Benally then capped an 11-6 run for a 17-6 lead with his second trey of the night.

The Warriors increased that cushion to 21-8 on a two-point basket by Kevin Bia in the early going of the second quarter.

But after that bucket by Bia, the tide shifted as Ramah senior guard Tyrell Morgan engineered a 21-7 run by nailing four treys.

His final one tied the game at 28-all with 36 seconds before teammate Tyson Bond put the Mustangs ahead, 29-28 at the break.

"We knew that Navajo Pine beat Tohatchi, and the way they came we knew they would be riding that high coming in here," Lewis said. "We kind of expected them to come out with a lot of energy, but I didn't expect them to hit as many shots as they did."

Morgan, who finished with game-high 29 points, was later named the tournament's most valuable player.

"Tyrell Morgan is the MVP in the district for a reason," Lewis said. "He hit some big shots there in the first half to keep us close. And then we finally settled down and played some good defense and we were fortunate to take a lead in that first half."

Defensively, Lewis said they applied more pressure and got Navajo Pine out of rhythm.

"We wanted them to feel a little uncomfortable so they wouldn't take those threes in rhythm," he said.

Navajo Pine, which upset top-seeded Tohatchi to reach the finals, were bothered by that as they missed 13 of their next 18 shots to end the half.

"We came in here with that same mindset of knocking down another team, but it seemed to burn out during the last few minutes of the first quarter," Poyer said. "Rather than staying aggressive and heading to the basket and shooting a good high percentage three, we ended up becoming more complacent."

Poyer said that shift became more apparent in the second half as Ramah opened up a 50-32 lead heading into the fourth.

"Once the mindset shifted, we became more careful," he said. "After that it seemed liked we were walking on eggshells."

On the other end, the Mustangs opened up the floor and isolated Morgan with 6-feet-6 center Sean Jordan as the two combined for 23 of Ramah's 36 points in the second half.

"It's my senior year and my teammates needed me so I let it all go," Morgan said of his offensive numbers. "We played with a lot of heart and got ourselves going."

"We played a heck of a game," Jordan added. "I think everyone guarded their man really well, especially in the second half. We made sure we had a hand up every time."

Behind a 12-point effort from senior post Colin Tompson, the Warriors outscored the host team 19 to 15 in the fourth quarter only to fall short of earning the district's automatic bid.

"We knew Ramah was going to be tough and we came out aggressive," Tompson said. "But we got too complacent and it just started to fade away. We allowed them back into the game and we can't do that against a team like Ramah."

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