by Marty Mayfield
MAXWELL — The New Mexico state basketball championships continued this last week in empty venues after New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grishom declared a state health emergency after four cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in New Mexico.
Despite the empty arenas the teams played on.
Wednesday afternoon, March 11, saw Maxwell take on Elida and win that game 71-61. Wednesday evening Pine Hill toppled the Roy/Mosquero Lady Blue to end their season 62-55. That was the first of the four northeastern New Mexico teams to fall in the tournament. Springer sent Cimarron home with a 58-43 score in the last game of the evening on Wednesday.
On Thursday Maxwell played Tatum winning that game 61-52 with Maxwell’s biggest lead coming in the 4th quarter where they led by 17.
In the end, only our World’s #2-seeded Maxwell Bears made it to the final dance. They had a rematch with #1-seeded Melrose who had bested #5-seeded Springer 58-27 in the semifinals to meet Maxwell.
The Maxwell Bears met the Melrose Buffaloes for the third time this season, with the Buffaloes in the hunt for their third straight state championship. Maxwell just missed a game tying three pointer at the buzzer to give Melrose the narrow 59-56 win. The game was played in an empty Dreamstyle Arena (The Pit) on the University of New Mexico campus because of the COVID-19 threat, with only the teams and essential personnel allowed access to the live event.
Melrose also won the two previous outings, but Maxwell led in both previous games until the third quarter Melrose went into the championship game having not lost to a NM team with only one loss and that to a 4A Lubbock Christian team in a tourney in Lubbock, TX.
Maxwell came to play and the two heavyweights traded blows and baskets for the entire game, providing the closest championship game of the entire tournament. Maxwell started out strong in the first quarter to begin the game taking a six point lead early, only to find themselves down by one at the end of the first. Maxwell’s Riggs brothers, Kolton and Kaden, kept Melrose out of the lane early on but the returning state champs found a way to put the points on the board. At halftime it was a tie game as the boys headed to the locker room at 31 apiece.
The second half saw Melrose take the lead and hold on through out the third quarter and ended up with a four point lead going into the final 8 minutes. Melrose took control in the fourth and put Maxwell down by as much as 10. The Bears battled back to within five as Melrose went into a stall late in the game. Maxwell fouled and after misses at the line, got the ball back to bring the score to 56-59. With 10 seconds on the clock Maxwell’s Caden Floyd drove the lane and lost the ball out of bounds. Maxwell inbounded the ball with 2.2 seconds getting it to Tristen Pierce who put a high rainbow 3-pointer from the corner. In what seemed like an eternity, the ball finally hit the back of the rim and bounced out as the buzzer sounded ending the game and giving Melrose their third state title.