Quickness key to Colt win over ‘Cats

NMMI’s Hector Reyna playing tough defense out on the wing against Tularosa’s Traiton Griffen.

NMMI Sports Press

In front of a gym packed with members of the Corps of Cadets, the New Mexico Military Institute Colt basketball team (6-6, 2-1) evened up their record and moved into the pole position in the District 4 race, downing Tularosa (13-8, 1-2) at home on Tuesday, 46-36.

The Colts sunk the first basket of the game, a short shot by Charles Lewis after a pretty inlet pass by Hector Reyna, but quickly found themselves down by five, 7-2, after hot outside shooting by the ‘Cats.

NMMI’s Ricardo Mata then got hot himself, nailing back-to-back threes and then a two from the top of the key, giving the Colts a 10-7 lead with 3:57 left in the first. They then kept that margin until the end of the period, 15-12, thanks in large part to three more assists by Reyna.

Reyna sunk the next two baskets to start the second period, putting NMMI up by seven. Daniel Xibille dropped in five of his game-high 14 points in the period as well, helping the Colts take a 26-19 lead into the locker room.

As part of the halftime ceremonies, members of the ‘Cadets for a Cure’ campaign presented a check to the Chavez County Cancer Fund totaling $3000. The campaign is a year-long series of events and activities, organized by Institute cadets, designed to help raise both money and awareness for all types of cancer. The Chaves County Cancer Fund is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 to “provide caring support and financial assistance to Chaves County community members and their families as they go through cancer treatment.”

With the ‘big check’ presented and halftime concluded, the third quarter began, and it was a low-scoring, hard-nosed defensive battle by both teams. NMMI shot just 2-for-12 and committed six turnovers. But Tularosa’s offensive output was hardly better: 2-for-11 from the field, along with seven turnovers. Tularosa did manage to slightly outscore NMMI in the stanza, 6-5, making it a six-point game, 31-25, with one period left to play.

The ‘Cats scored eleven in the final period, including the initial bucket to cut the score to just four, 31-27, but that was as close as they would get, as five different Colt players posted points in the fourth, combining for a total of 15. Xibille again led with six. Reyna had three. Jalil Brown scored his first bucket of the game at the 6:37 mark on a fast break after a block and assist by Xibille. Charles Lewis got the final two points of his eight-point tally after a steal and easy bucket with 3:22 left on the clock. And newcomer Clay Stroh hit a pair from the charity stripe with 13 ticks left to close out the Colt scoring.

“It got sloppy there a couple of times – which it kind of tends to do with us – but we were able to withstand the turnovers and finish the game,” said head Colt basketball coach Connor Williamson, who was clearly proud of his team’s play on both sides of the ball.

“We have a lot of guys who can score, just a lot of threats, and when we share the ball, we’re definitely scary,” continued the coach. “Our offense comes from our defense a lot of times, too. We have a lot of quick defenders and when they get in those passing lanes it causes a lot of problems for opposing teams. Then we get on the break and get some easy ones.”

Xibille tied Lewis for tops in rebounds, each with seven. Reyna finished with nine points, six boards, six assists, a block and pair of steals. Mata poured in eight on the night, all in the first, and had a trio of both rebounds and assists.

Next up for the Colts will be another district home game, as they take on the Rattlers on Friday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 PM in the Cahoon Armory gym and try to avenge a previous 51-34 loss in Tucumcari back on Feb. 5.

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