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Defending state 3A champion Pecos matches up with undefeated Bernalillo

Defending state 3A champion Pecos matches up with undefeated Bernalillo in today’s boys semifinals of the annual Ben Lujan Memorial Invitational played at Pojoaque Valley

In the others semis, the host Elks meet up with Santa Fe Indian School

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

One thing is for sure, the Pecos boys have no doubt upgraded their basketball schedule as they seek a second-straight state 3A championship down the road.

The Panthers are 4-1 and have played one 6A school, two 5As, a pair of 2s, and now meet up late this afternoon against undefeated 4A Bernalillo (7-0) in the semifinals of the annual Ben Lujan Memorial Invitational hosted by Pojoaque Valley.

“They have very good guard play,” said Pecos’ head coach Ira Harge, Jr., “and some big boys. They play pressure defense and get the ball inside, so it will be a big test for us.”

Game time is scheduled for 4:30, with the winner playing the Santa Fe Indian School-Pojoaque Valley winner in Saturday’s championship contest.

The Panthers rolled over Monte del Sol, 60-37, in Thursday’s opening day, while the Spartans turned back Mora, 81-63.

In the other quarterfinals, the Elks won their first game in three starts overwhelming winless, outmanned Desert Academy, 51-12, and the Braves advanced with a 71-34 romp over Penasco. Indian School is now 5-3 and Penasco dropped to 2-6. For the Wildcats, it was their fifth loss in a row.

But for sure, the feature game is Pecos versus Bernalillo. The Panthers mix a veteran lineup with some talented underclassmen, including versatile 6-foot sophomore Xavier Padilla, who has been leading the team in scoring, has crashed the boards for key rebounds, and has displayed aggressive defense.

He joins the veterans, 6-foot senior Mario Archuleta, 5-10 senior Josh DeHerrera, 6-foot senior Carlos Cordova, 5-11 junior Omar Dominguez, 5-7 senior Jacob Varella, and there’s also 6-foot sophomore Ismail Anaya. Harge can also rely on his bench, so it’s a lineup with depth, experience and confidence.

As for Bernalillo, it has a 6-7 senior post in Solomon Fraqua and a 6-3 senior power forward. The guard play has been in the hands of Reyes Herrera and Luis Villegas. Herrera scored 30, Villegas added 16 and Fraqua tossed in 14.

It has not been all that easy for the Spartans. Most of their wins have not been close, but then there was a one-point triumph at Albuquerque Del Norte, a 62-60 win at home against Grants, and an impressive 70-39 rout over visiting Los Alamos.

For Pecos, it was Padilla leading the way with 17 points, Archuleta adding 14, DeHerrera 11, and Dominguez 10.

Indian School and Pojoaque are slated to tip-off at 7:30. In the consolation games, it’s Monte de Sol versus Mora and Penasco against Desert Academy. Saturday, they play for first, third, fifth and seventh places.

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