In the last two games, the fourth quarter has been New Mexico Military Institute’s Achilles’ heel.
But the Colt boys basketball team was finally able to survive and finish strong against District 4-3A rival Tularosa.
Down by two points with 33 seconds to go in the contest, NMMI’s Bobby Laporte made a layup and got fouled to put the Colts out in front by two, 49-47.
The Colts then fended off the Wildcats for a much needed 51-47 victory Tuesday night at the Godfrey Athletic Center.
Last week, NMMI dropped two heartbreakers to Tucumcari and Tularosa on the road. The loss to Tularosa came in double overtime while the Rattlers came back in the fourth quarter to win by two.
With one game left in the regular season, NMMI has already solidified the second seed at the district tournament by winning the tiebreaker over Tucumcari in point differential, 126-122.
“This was a big one for us. Big confidence booster as well,” said NMMI head coach Connor Williamson. “It feels good to get this one back after that close one up there.”
NMMI (12-7, 3-2) jumped out with a 13-5 lead in the first quarter until Tularosa’s Josh Chavez hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the deficit to within three.
The Colts got a little breathing room by extending their lead to 20-12 with 5:37 in the second quarter. NMMI narrowly outscored the Wildcats, 17-11, to hold a nine-point lead at the break.
Tularosa (16-7, 3-1) turned the tide in the third quarter. After a three-pointer by NMMI’s Daniel Xibille, the Wildcats answered with a three from Chavez which cut the deficit to four points with 3:02 on the clock.
Chipping away, Tularosa tied the game and later took the lead after a three-pointer from Gus Calderon.
The Wildcats outscored NMMI, 17-5, in the third quarter to take a three-point lead into the final frame.
Xibille cut the deficit to two after making a layup with 4:03 left. NMMI later tied the game and regained the lead after Clay Stroh battled his way through the lane for a hard earned layup with 1:16 remaining.
Tularosa then regained the lead on a long two from Calderon with 33 seconds to go.
NMMI got its clutch moment from Laporte after six lead changes. The Colts went on to outscore the Wildcats, 16-9, in the final quarter.
Xibille led the way scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds while Ricardo Mata had 11 points and five assists.
Andres Bleizeffer chipped in with seven points.
Chavez paced the Wildcats with 15 points. He made five 3-pointers in the game. Calderon added with eight points.
Laporte might’ve tallied three points in the contest, but they were crucial.
“It feels great. We’ve been practicing all week. It just feels good to come home and win as a team,” Laporte said. “So, the game plan is to focus one game at a time and to just keep playing every game.”
NMMI hosts Dexter at 6:30 p.m. Friday before jumping into the District 4-3A tournament the following week.
“That’s the one we have to focus on right now and then we’ll have to see how things play out,” Williamson said about playing Dexter. “Most likely we’re the second seed and have to go up to Tulie again.
“This was a huge win for us mentally.”