By Arnie Leshin
It’s almost district basketball time, so it’s a good time to check out how our area schools have done in non district play, and how the districts are the only way to get invited to the state tournament.
So far, we’ve got Pecos boys and girls right up there in 2A, with the boys seeking a third-straight state championship. Their most recent game came in the Northern New Mexico Rio Grande Invitational when they lost to Mora in the final. They are now 11-3 and above them at this time are Newcomb, Rehoboth Christian, and Tse’ Yi’ Gal, all at 9-3.
Except that the Ira Harge, Jr. boys can bank on their state tournament experience. Their next stop is a Wednesday doubleheader at home against winless Tierra Encantata (0-6), with the opener matching Ron Drake’s girls with also winless Tierra Encantata (0-7).
“We need these games,” Drake said, “after the Lady Horsemen tournament at St. Michael’s shut down after the first round by the weather conditions and that meant there were two games we didn’t play.”
Presently, his team sits on top of the 2A standings at 10-2, and on a 10-game win streak after getting past 2A Penasco in the final of the same tournament up at Pojoaque Valley. Right below is Mescalero Apache (8-2) coached by Elmer Chavez, who coached Santa Fe High girls to the 4A state championship in 2014.
Then there’s Texico, a state tournament regular now in Pecos’ district, which should make it all that more interesting. There’s also Santa Rosa and Clayton in District 7.
Then there’s 3A, which St. Michael’s and Santa Fe Indian School are looking forward to. The Lady Horsemen (6-7) have been up and down after splitting their first eight starts, while the Braves (11-2) are a threat to contend for state honors.
But the team to beat in the district is undefeated Robertson at 13-0. West Las Vegas, Santa Fe Prep and Raton round out District 2.
As for the Horsemen, they are at 7-5 but their tough early schedule could come in handy in a district that isn’t that tough. Indian School is also 7-5 and Robertson has slacked off and is at 6-7 along with Raton. WLV and Santa Fe Prep are below .500, but district play always brings surprises. But St. Michael’s no doubt should be the favorite at this point.
Right now, Hot Springs (9-2), Tularosa (7-2) and Navajo Prep (10-3) are up on top of the standings.
In 4A, the unbeaten Pojoaque Valley girls have won all 12 starts and come off a rout of 5A Santa Fe High at the Demonettes’ court. Coming up though are back-to-backs tests against Albuquerque St. Pius X (7-2) and Gallup (8-2). The Elkettes shouldn’t have a problem in District 2 against the likes of Moriarty, Espanola Valley, Los Alamos and Taos. Only the Pintos (7-6) and the Sundevils (6-6) are at .500 and above.
The Elks are now 5-9 and must contend with Taos (9-5) and Espanola (8- 6) in district. They look good enough to place among the first three. The Tigers are much improved and the Sundevils have dropped off from their stellar season last year.
Holding on to the top spots are Silver (9-2), Los Lunas (10-3) and Bernalillo (9-2). Silver will be at St. Michael’s for this week’s Horsemen Round Robin tournament that will also include 3A Wingate (7-5) and 4A Moriarty (2-8).
In 5A, the Santa Fe High are away to splendid start at 13-2, with the losses to Rio Rancho High and Los Lunas. In District 5, the main challenge will come from cross-town rival Capital (9-3). Also in the district are Albuquerque Manzano (4-3), Albuquerque Sandia (4-4), Albuquerque Rio Grande (2-5) and Albuquerque High, which is winless in six starts.
The Demons are not on top the class standings, but have proven they can play with the best. Their next stop is at Clovis (10-5) Saturday, and road wins are tough to get. Unbeaten Las Cruces (14-0) heads the current standings, with Cleveland at 11-1 (it’s defeat came at Santa Fe High), and Gadsden and Albuquerque Volcano Vista at 8-1. Santa Fe High and 9-2 Rio Rancho are right up there.
The Demonettes have been in a slump, losing their last three and falling to 5-9. They are way down in the standings and Capital is just ahead of them at 4-6. Sandia is 6-1 and the team to beat in District 5, but Manzano (2-5), Albuquerque High (1-6) and Rio Grande (0-8) could finish below Santa Fe High and the Jaguars.
The St. Michael’s boys have a non district contest at Albuquerque Academy (1-7) at Albuquerque Academy tonight, Capital is at Los Alamos, and Santa Fe Prep has a doubleheader at GCC versus Monte del Sol, with the girls playing in the opener.
Then there’s Los Alamos girls at Capital, and Indian School at Laguna-Acoma.
On Wednesday, two former district rivals, Espanola and Santa Fe High, who met three times in the year that the Demonettes won state, will get together at Toby Roybal Memorial gymnasium.
Thursday starts the 3-day Horsemen Round Robin, with Silver playing Moriarty in the opener and St. Michael’s facing Wingate in the closer. The same night, the Lady Horsemen will play at Albuquerque Academy.