ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Manzano boys basketball team led from start to finish, clinched the regular-season District 2-5A title and spoiled what could have been a historic night at La Cueva.
Manzano’s 67-61 win Saturday night gives the Monarchs the top seed in next week’s district tournament.
“It feels good, we have a really tough district,” Manzano forward Austin Roark said. “You have to give it to La Cueva, Eldorado, Sandia. They’re all great teams.”
Roark scored a team-high 19 points as Manzano kept La Cueva coach Frank Castillo from his 600th career win.
“I didn’t know that, but I’m glad he didn’t get it on us,” Manzano coach Travis Julian said. ” I respect coach Castillo. He’s a great coach, and I consider him a mentor.”
Castillo’s quest for his 600th win was an afterthought almost immediately as the Monarchs (16-8, 5-1) began the game on a 14-4 run.
“Manzano was playing awfully efficient in the first half,” said Castillo, who declined to comment on chasing win No. 600. “In the second half, our effort picked up; we just needed to shoot the ball better. In the first half, we were just horrible.”
The Monarchs, behind 13 first-half points from Erik Bouma and 10 from Roark, led by 15 at halftime.
“We came out with no energy. I don’t know what it was,” La Cueva’s Kory Alford said. “We came out way too flat and got down in a hole and couldn’t come back.”
Alford scored 20 points to lead all scorers, including four points in the final three minutes of the third quarter that made the score 48-39 and cut La Cueva’s deficit to single digits for the first time since midway through the first quarter.
Manzano’s Ben Romero scored five points during a 7-2 run to open the fourth quarter to put the Monarchs back in control.
“This group is one of the favorite teams I’ve coached, not just because we won district,” Julian said, “(but) because they came to practice everyday this year, for the most part, to get better.”
In district tourney play, Manzano will be at home next Saturday. La Cueva (16-8, 2-4) will play host to Sandia on Wednesday.