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Roswell understands what is in front of them

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Roswell head coach Moses “Dude” Burrola watches the action against Onate at the Coyote Den in 2020. (Daily Record File Photo)

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After sitting around for a year with no games, nothing prepared the Roswell boys basketball team for what they would face. Four games in five days is a tough ask for any team. Roswell was slated to play Lovington, Goddard, Artesia and Cleveland with only one day off.

For Roswell, the toughest of challenges is not to back away from the championship mentality that has been instilled in the program for the last 25 years.

The team would have to play the No. 1 team in the state in Cleveland at a neutral site: Estancia. The Coyotes didn’t have their best game that night, because they played so many games. What was missing was their legs and 3-point shot as they fell behind 24 points in the first half.

Roswell coach Moses “Dude” Burrola, noticing this, appealed to his team for small victories, to give his team confidence. At halftime, “Dude” asked his team to give their best effort and to win the second half by outscoring Cleveland.

Roswell did this, 40-30. The Coyotes would lose the game 78-62, but what that small victory did was give them the belief and confidence that they could play with any team in District 4-5A.

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“I think getting the Cleveland game is huge for us,” “Dude” said. “We didn’t play well the first half, but we played really well the second half. I think right there, we saw the light turn on for us. And we got a lot better in the second half. That game prepared us for Hobbs and for the rest of the season.”

This would be important. This season is a 12 -game sprint, not a 26-game marathon. Everything is different, the New Mexico Activities Association is only taking the top eight teams for playoffs. In essence, Roswell must win their district to assure themselves a spot in the playoffs.

Roswell senior Taymon Burrola (24) brings the ball up the court against NMMI on March 29 at the Coyote Den. (Daily Record File Photo)

The Cleveland loss was the catalyst for coach Burrola’s first signature win on the road. Roswell went into Tasker Arena and upset Hobbs 68-58 on Tuesday night behind 30 points from Taymon Burrola.

“One of the keys to the team,” “Dude” said, “is we have quite a few seniors this year; that have been around for four years. They understand what is in front of them and they stepped up, did what they needed to the other night.”

Stepping up and doing what needs to be done is his son, Taymon Burrola. He has scored 26 against Cleveland, 31 against Artesia, and 30 against Hobbs with 14 coming in the fourth quarter when the game was in the balance.

“Taymon has been in this program a lot longer than people have been in this school,” “Dude” said. “He’s been doing it since he’s 4 or 5 years old; he understands what is in front of him. He’s playing the way he should be playing. Hopefully, he can continue.”

“Dude” said it is not only his son playing well, but everybody is stepping up. Senior guard Rhett Stokes hit a big 3-point shot against Hobbs and continues to take the big shot when the ball is kicked to him. Talon Sanders’ defense has been impressive, Freddie Anaya brings speed and toughness.

Manning the middle has been rebounding machine Alonzo Acosta, whose ability to grab a rebound and bounce back up and put the ball through the net before defenders can leave their feet has been a big plus. Senior T.J. Fletcher brings the energy and hunger that the team feeds off.

This year is the culmination for the Burrola family. Head coach Moses “Dude” Burrola has been through this, two years ago, with his eldest son, Tarren. He became the school’s all-time leader in three-point shots made and is playing at New Mexico Military Institute as a sophomore.

Roswell would have a lot of questions this season, and everyone knew the talented ensemble coming back with six seniors. The only fear was, would they jell together in 12-games, and would the other players fill into their roles.

The pods helped, but without the chance to play full out and compete there would be an adjustment to game speed and action. One of the advantages is that the seniors have played together since they were 10 years old. Knowing each other and liking each other has been the difference in team chemistry this season.

One of the things “Dude” fears is a letdown after such a big win. On Friday, the team travels to Carlsbad, where Burrola must face John Zumbrun. Zumbrun is a veteran coach and has coached the girls’ team at Carlsbad for a while until moving over to coach the boys this season.

While he coached the Carlsbad girls, he has engineered several big wins against Joe Carpenter, when Carpenter was at Roswell and most recently Hobbs.

Coach Burrola said Carlsbad (3-2) is going to want to try and slow the game down and play zone. He is not going to want to let Roswell’s athletes take advantage of their speed and make the game a track meet.

“We have to be able to hit shots,” “Dude” said. “We want to run and push the ball, but if it gets into a half-court game, we need to hit shots.”

Roswell (6-1) is looking rather good, with five games left in the district, if they can win at Carlsbad on Friday. The Coyotes have never won district 5A since realignment.

“Now is the chance to go ahead and get that Blue Trophy,” “Dude” said. “I feel like we have a good enough team to do it. We just have to keep fighting. We’re not afraid to play anybody. It says a lot about our kids.”

For Roswell, their dreams of winning state rest with what they do in the next two weeks. For them, it’s a five-game season. The one thing the Coyotes know is they cannot lose a game or play a bad basketball game.

Roswell plays at Carlsbad at 7 p.m. tonight.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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