By Arnie Leshin
Ever wonder what became of Elmer Chavez after his final year as head coach of the Santa Fe High girls brought a state 4A state championship.
Then he relocated south to become athletic director at 2A Mescalero Apache.
But he was soon wearing two hats. The girl’s head basketball coach left the Chiefs needing somewhat else to replace him. Enter Chavez, who in his first year of coaching the Demonettes, won only one game.
So now he was in charge of a program that had been average, only twice making the state tournament and never hosting a tournament game. So he added the vacant coaching position of the cross country team, and put life into the hoops program.
His record improved each season. He made four-straight state tournaments, won the district twice, and finally got to have the home fans watching two tourney finals.
But this year found his Chiefs without a senior in the lineup, just a young team with one 8th grader, three freshmen, four sophomores and six juniors. There was some height, but not much experience.
So there he was getting his 8th seeded girls out of the first round and into a tough test with Texico, the defending state champion, and the top 2A seed on a 14-game win streak.
But memories of that state championship season returned to Chavez. This was only a quarterfinal, but the biggest game in the program’s history. And the biggest victory after edging the stunned Wolverines, 47-46, at the Rio Rancho Santa Ana Star Center Tuesday morning.
“We slowed it down,” said Chavez, “that’s what we worked on. We have a young team with a super attitude, and they pick up things quickly. We also played a sticky defense that bothered them (Texico), and we took only good shots and went after every loose ball.”
His team’s 22-7 record was deceiving. It won its first four games before losing to Quasimoto, 47-44, at home. It won its next two before losing 55-52 to Navajo Prep. Next came another close one, a 71-68 defeat to Tularosa, and then dropped two in a row, 52-33, to perennial small-school power. And 68-62 to Crownpoint. The last setback was by 14 points to district rival Lordsburg. So five of the losses were by 15 points.
If the Wolverines took the Chiefs lightly, Chavez was aware of it. But he said as the game went along, his girls became more confident.
“We had a 4-point lead in the final minute,” he said, “and just kept passing the ball without taking a shot. When it got to 46-45, we made two free throws, and our fans went wild.”
Mescalero Apache next plays 4th seeded Dulce (18-11), in the semis. It won its quarters versus Estancia.
In other games, 2nd seeded Penasco had a tough time before disposing of 7th seeded Clayton, 55-49, in 2A, Tularosa, the 6th seed, surprised 3rd seeded Tucumcari, 38-35, in 3A, 4th seed Carlsbad, got past 5th seed Volcano Vista, 41-39, in 5A, in 4A 13th seeded Espanola Valley upset 4th seeded Albuquerque Highland, 54-44.
In other 5A action, 4th seed Hobbs turned back 9thseed Rio Rancho, 55-42, in 3A, 4th seed Navajo Prep defeated 5th seed Hatch Valley, 66-57, and in 4A, 2nd seeded Los Lunas eliminated 10th seeded Albuquerque Hope Christian, 57-44.
Then there was 3rd seed West Mesa, halting 5thseeded Mayfield 15-game win streak, 55-53, in 5A, to set up a fourth meeting with 2nd seeded Piedra Vista, which disposed of 6th seeded Farmington, 64-56, and has handed West
Mesa its three defeats.
In 2A, 3rd seed Pecos turned back 6th seed Lordsburg, 64-47, in 3A, 2nd seeded Santa Fe Indian School topped 7th seed Socorro, 45-31, and top seeded Robertson turned a close game with 8thseeded district foe West Las Vegas, 73-51, and in 4A, it was top seed Kirtland Central winning over 8th seed Portales, 71-39.