Whew! A collective sigh of relief fell over orange and black-clad Taoseños and Taoseñas when the Taos Tiger emerged triumphant in their playoff tilt March 3.
The turning point of the Class 4A state tournament opener came in the fourth quarter, with just under four-tenths of a second showing on the game clock. With the score knotted between Taos and the (12) Santa Fe Indian School Braves at 67, Abdul Khweis stepped up to the charity stripe and knocked down a pair of free throws to win the game for the Taos Tigers, 69-67 inside Otero Gymnasium. At one point the Tigers were up by as many as 17 points. A surge by the Braves in the second half made the final outcome a bit too close for comfort.
It might not have been a dramatic finish Taos fans have been accustomed to – no buzzer beater to force overtime, etc. – but fans cheered just as loudly for their boys.
The victory was yet another stepping stone for a young Tiger team trying to forge a new path for themselves – after enduring a paltry pair of lackluster seasons – in this, their final year in this current classification.
The (5) Tigers now move on to the Santa Ana Star Center, where they will take on the (4) Moriarty Pintos in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. The two teams are familiar with each other – having played twice in the regular season – with the Pintos owning a 2-0 series advantage. Moriarty beat the West Las Vegas Dons at home in their opener, 71-65 March 3.
Taos avoided the upset by a determined Santa Fe Indian School, who rose to the occasion and played well above their number 12 ranking. The Tigers are set to join all other higher ranked teams who also advanced with wins in the first round. Joining Taos and Moriarty in the quarterfinals are (1) Bernalillo, (8) St. Michael's, Silver, (3) Hope Christian, (6) Portales, (7) Shiprock and (2) Silver.
The quarterfinal match will take place Wednesday, March 7 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. Tip-off is at 4:45 p.m.
Fans are reminded that entry into state tournament games at Bernalillo High School, Santa Ana Star Center and Dreamstyle Arena will cost $10. There is no fee to park at Santa Ana Star Center.