ALBUQUERQUE — A 10-0 run midway through the game at West Mesa Friday night, combined with a 14-3 run later in the second half propelled Rio Rancho High School boys basketball team to an impressive 49-44 victory over the Mustangs.
Zac Jaramillo sparked the first run, nailing a 34-pointer that beat the first half buzzer and then opening the second half with another trey. Bryan Parnell got the second spurt off to a good start with back-to-back 3s, and when Bryce Peever converted a fast-break layup on a pass from Brady Patterson with 2:23 left to play, the Rams (7-9) owned a 49-38 lead.
It didn’t look like an easy win when the game began. As the Mustangs opened up a 13-4 first-period lead and had a 27-19 edge before Jaramillo’s heroics before halftime.
Patterson led the way with 15 points and Parnell would up with four treys for 12. Eric Gutierrez came off the Mustangs’ bench to lead his team with 15.
“I think we’ve had the talent all year, we just haven’t really clicked,” Patterson said of the win. “Now we’re starting to click and get into our little niches that we have on the team.”
At intermission, Patterson said, Salata told the team “(to) play hard on defense, to get in front instead of looking around, because we were all looking at the ball and they were getting back-door cuts.”
“Way to trust your players,” Salata told Patterson after he’d concluded the interview. There’s nobody less selfish than Patterson, always with an eye on an open man in the corner to dish to.
“We needed this as a confidence-builder,” RRHS coach Wally Salata said. “You’re starting to see that we can play slow; we can win games like this (holding an opponent to only 44 points): Understanding what we have to do that, not rush shots, rebound when we need to rebound.”
It was the second road win of the week over a District 5-5A team; the Rams won a nail-biter at Albuquerque High 74-71 Wednesday night, when Patterson erupted for 33 points and Parnell and Nick Ortega added 14 apiece.
“We extended our press, and they had three straight turnovers on the baseline – and we score scored off every single one of them,” Salata recalled. “Parnell hits a big 3 to tie it and then Patterson hit some free throws down the stretch.”
The Rams hope to extend their winning streak to when La Cueva visits the Rams Athletic Center Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Salata said the Rams trailed by five with less than two minutes to play.
It made for a satisfying week for Salata, whose brother-in-law, Ron Garcia, is the AHS head coach and the Mustangs’ head coach, Shonn Schroer is a long-time friend whose son, Zack, the West Mesa point guard, grew up playing hoops with Salata’s son Walt.
“If somehow, someway, we can beat La Cueva and go on a three-game winning streak and then go to Hobbs (Friday), who knows what happens down there: We’ve got Hobbs, Carlsbad and Sandia – three great teams coming up.
Ram dunks: The Rams are 26-7 all-time against the Mustangs, former rivals in 1-5A (2000-10). West Mesa had won the last three meetings, but RRHS once had a streak of 15 straight wins against the Mustangs.
… Patterson has led the Rams in scoring in the last 11 games.
The Rams’ Brenna Valencia sinks a short-jumper in the second period.