Jacob Apache splits Melrose defenders for a basket.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

It was close early, but foul trouble got in the way on March 8 as No. 11 Alamo Navajo fell to No. 3 Melrose in the Class A state boys basketball tournament at Bernalillo High School.

Everyone knew it would be an uphill battle for the Cougars (24-5) against the Buffaloes (23-7), who had a considerable height advantage and a load of experience in the postseason.

Senior scorer Jacob Apache led the first-quarter charge with a pair of three-pointers, but he also drew two fouls during the first eight minutes and had to spend time on the bench after drawing his third. Mathis Apachito and Mike Monte contributed another six points to make it 15-12 heading into the second quarter.

Tayshawn Pino, Apachito and Monte scored 12 points over the next frame, but Buffaloes began to pull away with eight players combining for 21 points and a 36-24 lead at the half.

Melrose would hold the Cougars at bay over the second half to close out the greatest season in the history of Alamo Navajo boys basketball.

“I told the boys that even though we lost, they should have no regrets because we had an awesome season,” Alamo Coach Lemuel Guerro said.

In addition to posting their best-ever season record of 24-5, the Cougars won their first-ever district title and first-ever state tournament game when they upset No. 6 Dora on the road.

“I’m so proud of these boys. They have come so far and fought very hard to get here, and they have everything to be proud of this year,” Guerro said.

Scoring-Tayshawn Pino 7, Jacob Apache 13, Mathis Apachito 6, Mike Monte 13, Scotty Guerro 5, Zephaniah Guerro 3, Johnshay Padilla 2.