By Arnie Leshin
You either noticed it in on the New Mexico Activities Association’s basketball scoreboard, saw it in one of the newspapers or even heard it through the grapevine, but the biggest upset in the state tournament Saturday night occurred in Las Cruces.
Previously undefeated and with a chip on its shoulder for expecting to be the top seed in 5A yet chosen as the 2nd seed, Las Cruces’ run unexpectively ended when district rival Onate, the 15th seed, came away with a 53-52 stunner over a team that had defeated it three times.
That moved the Knights into the state quarterfinals to be played against 7th seed Rio Rancho Cleveland at the UNM Dreamstyle Arena Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t know what you call it other than a huge surprise,” said Onate head coach Michael Nafiiez. “Two of the games we had lost to them were rather close, but this time we just hung in there. The 15thseed over the 2nd seed is big news and a proud moment for us.”
While Las Cruces turns in its gear, the Knights carry a 19-11 record against the Storm, which rolled over Albuquerque La Cueva, 77-59, to improve to 25-6. In the 16-school 5A field, only Las Cruces had more wins (28) than Cleveland.
But it couldn’t shake Onate. The Knights led 12-8 after one, trailed 23-21 at halftime and 40-39 after three quarters, its 14-12 edge in the last quarter was the deciding factor.
If there were other surprises around the state, none could compare with this one. In other 5A games, at Santa Fe High, the 5th seeded Demons recovered from poor shooting early one to get past 12th seed Albuquerque Manzano, 69-55, for the third time in four starts, including the playoff game for first place in district 5, and the Monarchs wound up at 14-13.
For Santa Fe High (22-7), its next test comes in the quarterfinals versus 4th seeded Albuquerque Eldorado at the UNM Dreamstyle Arena Wednesday.
That’s where Capital, the 13th seed, played in the first round, at the Golden Eagles. The Jaguars got away to a good start but when it’s shooting let down, it had no answers for the Golden Eagles’ 86-61 rout and finished at 21-10.
In 3A at top-seeded St. Michael’s, 16th seeded Thoreau hung around for a while, trailing only 33-24 at the half. But it was Horsemen (20-8) who pulled away by outscoring the Hawks, 25-15, in the third quarter to gain a 58-39 advantage.
The Perez-Shelley Memorial gymnasium at St. Michael’s was a sell-out as the home side prepared for the Wednesday quarterfinals against district rival West Las Vegas, the 8th seed, which disposed of 9th seed Albuquerque Bosque School, 84-64, at home.
The Dons (15-14) are the only team to win a game over the Horsemen in district play, and they now meet at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center.
Robertson, the 7th seed and also from district 2, had a tough test against 10th seed Wingate before prevailing 48-45 to advance to 16-14 and into the quarters. Also from the same district is 4th seed Santa Fe Indian School, which had no problem handing visiting NMMI a 57-40 setback.
At Pecos, the No. 1 seeded Panthers are now 24-3 in 2A following the 84-51 rout over Monte del Sol, the 16th seed that finished up at 17-12. The next stop for Pecos is 8th seeded Magdalena, which moved on by defeating Estancia, 59-50.
Up at Espanola Valley, the 4A Sundevils were eliminated when visiting Albuquerque Del Norte left with a surprising 81-74 triumph to end Espanola’s season at 17-10 and put the Knights at 15-13. Taos, also from district 2-4A, now plays 2ndseeded Los Lunas Wednesday after getting past visiting Valenica, 53-50.
5A: Atrisco Heritage 67, Roswell 49
Hobbs 78, Clovis 67
Rio Rancho 94, Gadsden 73
Volcano Vista 58, Carlsbad 42
4A: Gallup 71, Bernalillo 60
Goddard 31, Portales 29
Hope Christian 80, Miyamura 60
Los Lunas 57, Artesia 42
Silver 55, Ruidoso 44
Valley 52, Highland 44
3A: Cuba 63, East Mountain 50
Dexter 59, Navajo Prep 54
Hot Springs 56, Tularosa 43
Sandia Prep 58, Cobre 40
2A: McCurdy 63, Escalante 38
Mesilia Valley 53, Rehoboth 46
Mora 37, Eunice 45
Santa Rosa 57, Jal 34
Texico 63, Menual 50