Foxes struggle at line in loss to Hagerman

Fort Sumner senior Ryan Fikany squeezes off a shot in the lane during Wednesday’s Class 1A boys state tournament quarterfinal game against Hagerman at Del Norte High School. (CNJ staff photo: Jesse Wolfersberger)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer

ALBUQUERQUE — A frenzied full-court press helped Fort Sumner climb out of a deep first-half hole Wednesday night, but the Foxes were eventually done in by horrible free throw shooting.

Bill Squire scored 18 points and fourth-seeded Hagerman pulled away late for a 65-51 victory in a quarterfinal game of the Class 1A boys state basketball tournament at Del Norte High School.

Hagerman (26-5) moves on to a 5 p.m. semifinal game on Thursday against top-seeded Des Moines (28-2). The Demons advanced on Wednesday with a 62-49 triumph over Mesilla Valley.

Logan (25-4) moved into the semifinals with a 69-64 win over Quemado. The Longhorns will take on second-seeded Magdalena (26-4), an 82-62 winner over Springer in Wednesday’s final first-round matchup.

After being outscored 19-7 in the second quarter, the fifth-seeded Foxes (23-5) found themselves down by 13 to the Bobcats at halftime. They closed the gap to four points with just over four minutes left in the game, but couldn’t get any closer.

Fort Sumner coach Wes Weems said his team was able to rally by pressing the Bobcats.

“We have a press that causes a lot of people problems,” Weems said. “But when you give a team that much of a lead, it doesn’t really matter. You end up using a lot of energy to get back into the game and you don’t have enough to finish.”

The Foxes finished the night just 5-of-23 from the free throw line.

Hagerman coach Anthony Mestas, a Clovis High School alum, said experience during the season helped his team stay on top during Fort Sumner’s rally.

“Playing teams like Jal, Gateway (Christian of Roswell), Tatum — they make you handle that pressure every game in district,” Mestas said. “So going forward and playing in the playoffs, it really helped us out.”

Senior guard Jeremy Gauna, who led the Foxes with 12 points, said his team never gave up and made a run because of its chemistry.

“We’re a pretty tight-knit team,” Gauna said. “We’re just a family.”

Weems said Hagerman’s 6-foot-8 inside duo of Squire and Daniel Arp was a difficult matchup for his squad.

“They have big bodies inside and they did a real good job on the offensive glass,” Weems said. “When you give second-shot opportunities, and you’re not getting the same opportunities on the other end, it’s a tough deal.”

Weems said with a better night from the line, his team wouldn’t have been in such a hole.

“We didn’t hit our free throws all night,” Weems said. “Free throws and second opportunities are what gave them the victory.”