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Huskies vie for their 12th state championship

Silly talk has Albuquerque Hope Christian’s boy’s basketball team being stopped this year, but once again it’s just “talk” as Huskies vie for their 12th state championship behind their tough schedule Bernalillo, Silver, Shiprock probably have the best chance to overtake Hope, but that’s been heard before

By Arnie Leshin 
Arnie Leshin

Jim Murphy first coached Albuquerque Hope Christian’s boy’s basketball team in the 1984-85 season and it won its initial state championship. He left after that year, and the school didn’t win any more titles until he returned in 1998-99.

From there, the Huskies were dominating, under Murphy they found hope again, under Murphy they have won state 11 times. They won last year, have won the last five, and eight of these championships have come this decade.

Now, after Thursday night’s non district 74-73 loss at home to 5A rival St. Pius X, there’s that talk that they might be stopped this season. Really? Its overall record is 17-8 and it rests atop District 5-5A at 7-0.

In that district is Moriarty (17-7) and Portales (14-10), two quality teams, and the Huskies have defeated the Pintos twice and plays Portales again Saturday, so the district title will again be theirs.

Stopped? Well, if you check their schedule you will see the schedule they play. Nothing new, they do this every season. They handle the district and play a slate that includes 6A and 5A schools.

This year, Hope has played 6A Albuquerque High, Rio Rancho, and Albuquerque schools, Manzano, Cibola, Sandia, Rio Grande. It lost by three to Albuquerque High, by three to Manzano, by six in overtime to Rio Grande, were run over by Rio Rancho, and won handily over Cibola.

So after it wins another district championship, it has already played enough of the bigger schools to be prepared for the 4A challengers.

Its main opponent this decade has been St. Michael’s, which is struggling this season, is under .500 overall, but can clinch second place in 2-4A with a win at West Las Vegas Saturday night. Problem is, if the Horsemen don’t win the district tournament, they might not even be invited to the state tournament and that’s a rarity.

Four times these schools have met in the state final and they have split. The thriller of all came in 2002 when St. Michael’s halted the Huskies’ unbeaten streak at 26, and won 31-30. In 1999, it had its lone unblemished record at 25-0 and Hope has lost five times by one point in the finals.

But now Hope might get its biggest tests from and Bernalillo (25-1), Silver (21-4), and Shiprock (17-6). The Spartans have won 11-straight, the Colts win streak is at seven, and the Chiefs have run off seven in a row. There’s also red-hot Taos (17-10), which has won six in a row and has already clinched first place in district two.

There might be other challenges, but the Huskies still reign supreme until someone beats them at state. Until then, they can reserve the court at the UNM Pit and play behind their faithful fans wearing green and white.

Meanwhile, they can squash the meaningless talk that has been heard, for when there’s a championship to be won, there’s always hope.

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