After taming the Tularosa Wildcats in the Class 3A state quarterfinals, Estancia High’s boys basketball team couldn’t get past the No. 3 Pecos Panthers in the March 8 semifinals at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Pecos went on to win the state championship two days later.

During the semifinal contest—Estancia’s first trip to the “Final Four” since 2007 and only the third appearance in school history—the No. 2 Bears (28-2, 8-0) fell behind the Panthers in the first quarter and played catch-up the rest of the game before falling 69-48.

“Pecos—that’s a tough team, they’re really good, they had the mojo tonight,” Estancia head coach Daniel Pierce said.

Down by 5 points at halftime, Estancia started the third quarter with a quick 4-0 spurt to cut the Panthers’ lead to 31-30.

But Pecos outscored the Bears 20-2 over the next five minutes and never looked back.

“We got down early, we couldn’t make shots, we tried to come back but we just couldn’t close the gap,” Pierce said.

Reyez Herrera, Drayton Oberg, and Mario Prieto each finished with 12 points for the Bears.

In the March 7 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Tularosa, Herrera scored a game-high 20 points and Oberg added 17 to lift the Bears to a 61-46 victory.

Estancia built a 10-point advantage midway through the second quarter before the Wildcats cut the lead to 1 point at halftime.

The Bears came out with a 6-0 run early in the third before pushing the lead back to double digits by the end of the stanza.

The Bears added a 9-0 surge in the game’s waning minutes to seal the victory.

“I felt like it was gonna be a close game throughout,” Pierce said. “Our defense was huge—that took away from what Tularosa was trying to do—and we needed to get over this hurdle, that was our goal, to get to the Final Four.”

Pierce noted that Jeremy Silva—who chipped in 12 points for the Bears—was a “silent assassin” during the game.

“Jeremy’s not the spotlight guy, you don’t always know he’s out there—and he’s sick today—but by the end of the game, he’s always got 12, 14 points.”

The Bears’ season saw the best record under Pierce, who’s now been at the helm of the squad for three years.

“I’ve been blessed to be with this group of kids,” Pierce said. “They did an awesome job, they worked their tails off and I’m happy to see what we have coming up—we’ll be back next year.”