To'hajiilee Warriors advance with 70-40 win
By Quentin Jodie
TO'HAJIILEE, N.M., March 14, 2013
(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)
A s has been the case all season long, the To'hajiilee Warriors approached last Saturday's game determined, focused and confident.
The Warriors knew that the Tatum Coyotes would be tough and for nearly one quarter of play, they were.
But unlike the team's previous experience in its last two state playoff appearances, the Warriors bucked a trend and advanced with a 70-40 victory in the opening round of the New Mexico Class 1A boys' basketball championships.
With the win the Warriors improved to 23-2 for the year.
To'hajiilee played No. 11 McCurdy last night with the winner advancing into today's semifinals at Bernalillo High School at 8:15 p.m. As of press time, the scores were not available.
"For the past two years we've always made it to the first round and we've always come up short," To'hajiilee head coach Roberta Secatero said. "I told them that this was their year."
With four players in double figures, the Warriors experienced a different kind of feeling after last Saturday's win with junior forward Seth Watuema leading the way with 22 points.
AJ Apachito and Freddie Peralto helped out with a dozen points each while senior point guard Christian Apachito added 11.
"It was terrible," Watuema said of last year's feeling. "We came so far, but we came up short. This year we have a good team and we've matured a lot."
"We've been here before, but our goal was to get past the first round," Christian Apachito added. "We worked hard every day and we kept pushing ourselves."
As the tournament's No. 3 seed, the Warriors started last Saturday's contest a bit slow and trailed 5-4 on a three-point basket from Cristian Hinojosa of Tatum with 3:37 to go in the first quarter.
But a four-point swing from AJ Apachito righted To'hajiilee's ship as the Warriors went on an 8-0 run to end the quarter.
"They were nervous and at the end of the first quarter I told them they needed to relax a little bit," Secatero said of her team. "I think they were trying a little too hard because we weren't playing our game."
With a better shooting effort, the Warriors went ahead 28-12 midway through the second by making 8 of 12 shots with Darryl Apachito going a perfect 2-for-2 from long range.
Most of those shots were a byproduct of unselfish play that penalized the Coyotes.
"To'hajiilee is so talented and so skilled with the ball," Tatum coach Vince Homer said. "The thing that impressed me the most was how unselfish they are. They share the ball and they play with a lot of passion."
The Warriors continued to reap those benefits as they extended a 30-18 halftime lead into a 39-18 cushion with Watuema, Peralto and Treston Platero hitting one trey each to start the third quarter.
Watuema scored the next seven points for To'hajiilee before Peralto added his second trey of the night for a 49-28 lead heading into the fourth.
On the other end the Warriors applied a full court press and limited Tatum to one shot as the Coyotes couldn't keep up with the home team.
"We've been pressing a lot," Watuema said. "It's really helped us out with some key wins this year. We're a lot more aggressive and we just hustle to the ball."
"Our defense is more tight and it's faster," Apachito said. "Our defense is making us better."
That statement rang true in the fourth as they held the Coyotes to 10 points while tallying 21 on their end.
"We knew they were athletic and they can shoot the ball," Homer said of the Warriors, "but the difference in the game was we were a little outmatched."
The Tatum coach said they didn't give themselves a chance "to hang around" as they missed some layups in the early going.
"That could have made a difference," he said, "but the Warriors are awfully talented."