ALBUQUERQUE — Not many basketball team cruise into Valley High’s Warren Smart Gymnasium and leave with a sweep.
Maybe not, but Cleveland High School’s boys basketball team did that Friday night.
The Storm’s C-team, junior varsity and then, in the most-meaningful win of the three, the varsity all pulled off victories over the Vikings.
The varsity’s win came over a Valley team that went into the game on its homecourt undefeated after six games. The impressive victory could mean a better seed for the state tournament in March, an event the Storm have been absent from the past two seasons.
No matter. The Storm (5-1) grabbed the lead during a flurry of Vikings turnovers midway through the opening quarter and led by as many as 10 (30-20) after junior Ryan Jones buried a 3-pointer midway through the second stanza.
“Once we got into our flow, it helped out a bunch,” he said. “It took us a few minutes.”
Valley closed the first half on a 7-0 run to pull within 32-30 at intermission.
Then, the Vikings started the second half by scoring the first five points as high-scorer Adonis Saltes canned a 3 and Joseph Anaya added a basket for a 35-32 lead by the home team; the lead was 37-34 before the Storm went on a 10-0 run, keyed by a 16-foot jumper, a layup and a pair of free throws by Marcus Williams.
When Jones, who finished with a team-high 26 points, hit two free throws with 1:18 left in the third quarter, the Storm again led by 10, 49-39.
Valley stayed close in the final period, getting within four on a layup by Saltes, but the Storm, like sharks smelling blood, went in for the kill. The should-be-patented D2O philosophy of Smith’s created some VHS turnovers and the Storm capitalized.
Along the way, one of the Storm’s tow big men inside, Jacob Earnest, fouled out. But the other big guy, Desmond Branch was still in the game, rebounding at both ends, blocking shots, scoring, dishing out assists and canning free throws.
Valley, limited to just 10 points in the third period, played the Storm even in the final period, 22-all. The Storm scored the game’s final five points, all from the foul line, where they were 23 of 36 for the game.
Saltes paced the Vikings with 29 points, with 11 of those in the final period. Valley shot better from the line, percentage-wise, making 24 of 33.
Bo Coleman, the son of VHS coach Joe Coleman, manged only 2 points before fouling out in the fourth period. Earlier in the week, he was named the Gatorade Football Player of the Year in the state, after leasding Valley to a 10-0 regular season before, like the Storm, they were eliminated in the semifinals by a Las Cruces team.
The win was the Storm’s fifth in a row, and came after a lopsided sweep of three opponents en route to winning the Marv Sanders Invitational in Farmington last weekend.
“That’s a good team; they were 6-0, No. 1 or 2, whatever in the state,” CHS coach Brian Smith said of the Vikings. “The bottom line is our guys played with a lot of heart. I think our defense did a good job; we gave up some points, but a lot of that was silly fouls and we put them at the foul line.
“The problem is, I don’t have any time to enjoy it: We have (defending 5A champ) Las Cruces in less than 12 hours, basically,” he said. “I’m proud of the way they came in to a hostile environment; Valley’s a great place to play.”
Smith was understandably concerned about the Bulldawgs on deck: “This is fun, but you’ve got the midnight rule. You’ve got to forget about (this victory) and be ready to work (Saturday). Then we can celebrate, if we can (beat las Cruces).”
Storm warnings: The freshman team rallied from a 17-5 deficit at the end of the first period to beat the Vikes handily, 63-25.
… Henry Hattis and Andrew Garcia had 10 points apiece to lead the Storm JV to a 50-42 victory over Valley. All of Garcia’s points came in the fourth quarter.