ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Question of the day: does a .500 basketball team deserve a home game in the state tournament?
Let the lobbying begin.
“We are a .500 team. I understand that,” Valley coach Joe Coleman said Friday night. “But just because of the way the districts have fallen, I think we’ve worked ourselves into a home game.”
The Vikings may prove to be a conundrum for the Class 5A seeding committee, but the Vikings are surely playing some of their best basketball as the calendar gets ready to flip over to March. Valley (13-13) enjoyed a hot shooting night in the District 5-5A semifinals against visiting Highland, and the Vikes beat the Hornets 61-49 to advance to the 5-5A finals tonight at No. 1 seed West Mesa.
But while Coleman — and everyone else — plays a guessing game when it comes to Sunday’s playoff selections, there were certain pleasures just to be gained by having another shot at the Mustangs.
“Two and a half weeks ago, I was worried about us getting into the state tournament,” said Coleman. “I won’t complain about us getting a home game, but I feel our kids have earned that right the past two and a half weeks.”
Valley shot 55 percent from the floor Friday, which is even more impressive when you factor in how many long jump shots the Vikings took.
Valley was 8-of-14 from behind the arc, and much to Highland’s dismay, the Vikings spread the wealth amongst its shooters.
“They shot it really well,” Hornets coach Danny Brown said. “It was tough.”
Valley only trailed once, at 3-2. Anthony Santillanes and Dominic Ramos hit 3s late in the opening quarter as Valley opened up an early 16-10 lead. The Vikings also scored the final five points of the first half and led 33-27.
Ramos hit a pair of treys in the third quarter for Valley as the Vikings kept Highland (16-11) at bay. He finished with 12 points.
“Dominic played very well,” Coleman said. “He gave us some good stuff, and he’s a guy, as a junior, who hasn’t played a ton. But he was a key to help us stay ahead.”
Senior guard Mario Flores led Valley with 19 points, but was glad for the support.
“They did really good,” Flores said. “I didn’t have to worry about giving it up, because I knew they would knock down a key shot, or do the right thing.”
The three previous games this season between West Mesa and Valley were decided by a combined four points. Each won 54-53 at home, and the Mustangs beat Valley 46-44 on Monday of this week in a playoff game to determine 5-5A’s top seed..
Perhaps the most important game on the boys’ schedule tonight in 5A is the 1-5A championship game between Cibola and Cleveland. This game, at Cibola, may have more implications in terms of seeding than even the Manzano-Eldorado clash for the 2-5A tournament crown.
The Cougars, like Valley, might still need one more win to secure a first-round home game, especially because Cibola has two head-to-head losses to Valley.
In 3-5A, Las Cruces meets Oñate as the Knights look to cement the No. 1 seed for the postseason.
In 4-5A, second-ranked Clovis is home to Hobbs; a week ago, the Wildcats pounded the Eagles 80-51.
Locally, St. Pius is home to Albuquerque Academy for the District 5-4A title at 2 p.m.
Girls’ district finals include Cibola at Cleveland (1-5A), La Cueva at Eldorado (2-5A), Highland at Valley (5-5A) and Academy at Del Norte (5-4A).