ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Rio Grande to face Artesia in Wednesday’s championship game; St. Pius and Bernalillo post wins in the consolation round
By Vince Kong
Journal Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Most of the estimated 1,800 fans may have come to see the West Las Vegas Dons, but it was the Rio Grande Ravens who stole the show.
Gabe Sanchez scored 10 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Ravens (7-3) to a 76-65 win Tuesday in the 55th annual Stu Clark Tournament at New Mexico Highlands University.
“The crowd was tough,” Sanchez said.”… I kept hearing them — I couldn’t hear my teammates. But we kept our composure and listened to coach. We got the ‘W.’”
Sanchez went 6-for-6 from the foul line to help the Ravens absorb the Dons’ fourth-quarter rally — a rally that pulled the host squad to within seven points inside the final two minutes. Considering WLV had to come back from a 17-point first-half deficit, Dons coach Morgan Montaño was pleased with his squad’s effort overall.
“We knew that we had to jump on Rio Grande early — we didn’t,” he said. “But these kids never gave up. I just hope they learn that playing a team that handles the ball, and shoots the ball, as well Rio Grande, that we have to come out ready to play.”
The Dons were led by Adrian Rivera, who hit 9 of 16 from the floor for 24 points.
The Ravens scored the first five points of the contest and controlled the action the entire first half.
Rio Grande’s high-pressure defense forced nine second-quarter Dons turnovers — 20 overall — as the Ravens extended their lead to double figures by the intermission.
A Sanchez 3-pointer at the start of the second period ignited a 14-3 run to put Rio Grande up 35-19. Meanwhile, WLV struggled mightily from the floor, hitting just 4 of 8 field-goal attempts to trail 45-30 at the break. The largest Rio Grande lead of the game, 45-28, came inside the final 21 seconds on a lay-up by Mikey Ortega, who finished with six points.
Two other Ravens scored in double figures. Matt Apodaca had 17 points and Jarrod Borunda finished with 16. WLV’s other high scorer was John Martinez with 10 points.
Rio Grande takes on Artesia in tonight’s championship game at 8 p.m., and Ravens coach Wally Salata hopes that just getting to the finals isn’t enough for his squad.
“I’ve been at Rio Grande for the last four years and we’ve never been in a championship game before,” he said. “… Artesia is going to be a test for us, but we’re looking forward to it. And like I told my players, ‘Don’t just be happy playing in a championship game — always try to do something about it.’”
WLV (3-3) will face Shiprock in the third-place game at 6 p.m.
ARTESIA 73, SHIPROCK 47: The Chieftains spotted the Bulldogs two points before any time came off the clock — but it wasn’t as if Artesia needed it. Shiprock, which submitted an incomplete lineup, was charged with a technical foul prior to the start of a contest where the Bulldogs never trailed.
Ryan Elkins and Derek Montoya each posted 14 points, with Dallas Bollema chipping in 10, in the blowout win. Artesia led by as many as 30 points in the final period to advance to tonight’s championship contest.
Shiprock was led in scoring by Julian Wahnee, who had 13 points. Ryan Rockwell followed with 12.
ST. PIUS 55, ROBERTSON 39: The Sartans opened up a double-digit lead at the half and never looked back in their win over the Cardinals. Gerald Bourguet posted a game-high 16 points and Josh Lujan followed with 10 to lead St. Pius to today’s fifth-place game versus Bernalillo, at 3 p.m.
While Robertson rallied in the fourth quarter, it managed just six points in the third period. Meanwhile, St. Pius upped its advantage to 44-25 heading into the final quarter.
The Cardinals were led in scoring by Larry Romero and Justin Bustos, who each finished with nine points. Robertson will face Portales in the seventh-place game, at 1 p.m.
BERNALILLO 56, PORTALES 45: The Spartans’ big second half led to a double-digit win over the Rams in the other consolation contest. Ivan Luna posted a game-high 18 points, as Bernalillo out-scored Portales, 35-15, in the final two periods to advance to today’s fifth-place game.
The Rams took a 19-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, holding their nine-point advantage at the intermission, before their second-half collapse. Portales had two players score in double figures: Marcus Slocum had 12 points and Billy Good, 10.