The road to the Class 5A state basketball championships go through Las Cruces and Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights.
On paper, anyway.
On the eve of March Madness, and as expected, Oñate’s boys and Eldorado’s girls were awarded No. 1 seeds Sunday night by the New Mexico Activities Association. Boys first-round games will be Saturday, while the girls will start on Friday.
The Knights get Hobbs in the first round, with either No. 8 Cibola or defending state champion La Cueva awaiting in the quarterfinals.
Perhaps the most intriguing first-round matchup is the 5-12 between West Mesa and Cleveland. The Storm, at No. 12, are in the more forgiving half of the bracket, but paid the price for finishing third in their district.
“We can’t help the seeding process,” said Cleveland coach Brian Smith said.
West Mesa is making its first postseason appearance in 13 years.
On the brutal bottom half of the bracket, Clovis is the No. 2 seed, joined there by Manzano (No. 3) and Las Cruces (No. 6).
Eldorado’s girls are also in arguably the tougher half of the draw. The Eagles’ top half includes No. 4 La Cueva and No. 5 Cleveland, plus No. 8 Valley and No. 9 Cibola. La Cueva’s seed was a disappointment to Bears coach Abbie Carlson.
La Cueva almost certainly got a lower seed than Mayfield based on an overtime loss to the Trojans. As far as La Cueva was concerned, it was a controversial loss, insomuch as the Bears felt Mayfield got credit for a basket well after the third-quarter buzzer.
“It just drives me crazy,” said Carlson, knowing that she’s got Eldorado in her half.
Hobbs is the No. 2 seed, and Sandia, the defending state champion, is a dangerous floater at No. 6. They are on the bottom half with Mayfield.
CLASS 4A: If the top two boys seeds reach the final, we may see almost unprecedented ticket demand and fan frenzy. Gallup and Española Valley are the top two seeds, and are on a collision course. St. Pius was a No. 6, Albuquerque Academy a No. 10 and Del Norte a No. 15.
For the girls, Kirtland Central and Roswell are the top seeds. Del Norte will be a tough out as a No. 6, Academy is at No. 8 and St. Pius is No. 14.
CLASS 3A: Sandia Prep coach Willie Owens didn’t believe three teams from the same district would be stacked at the top, but that’s what happened. Private schools Hope Christian, St. Michael’s and Sandia Prep are 1-2-3. Santa Fe Indian, the defending champion, is the No. 1 girls seed.
CLASS 2A: For the first time, the NMAA has full 16-team brackets in Class 2A and Class 1A. And the top half of the 2A boys’ bracket is loaded. Three of last year’s Final Four are there, including defending state champion Mesilla Valley, Tularosa and Bosque School.
“I don’t think there’s an argument when it comes to seeding,” Bobcats coach Craig Snow said. “You have to win four games to win a championship.”
Texico’s girls are the No. 1 seed in 2A.
CLASS 1A: Menaul’s boys are at state for the first time since 2000; the Panthers are the No. 8 seed, which means a potential matchup with unbeaten Hagerman in the quarterfinals. Cliff, also unbeaten, is the No. 2 seed. The girls’ No. 1 seed is Fort Sumner.