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Yodice column: Cibola pushes sportsmanship boundary

The end of the metro tournament marks what is unofficially the midway point of the high school basketball season.

Starting today and continuing each week through the end of the season, I’ll be writing a prep basketball notes column, similar to what I’ve been doing for many years with football. I’ll be touching on a whole bunch of items/teams/players/coaches from around the metro area and across the state through the end of February. (If you have an item you’d like me to consider, email me at jyodice@abqjournal.com.)

PROTOCOLS: Every few years, it seems as though I need to get into this, and sure enough, here we are again.

Cibola’s girls basketball team, you may have heard, beat Rio Grande 117-13 last week in the first round of the metro tournament. This, naturally, elicited some strong comments on social media directed at Cibola.

Here are two issues I have: Cibola apparently was pressuring the basketball in the backcourt even in the fourth quarter (confirmed by multiple coaches, including Rio Grande coach Cory Collins), and two, that Amaya Brown was still playing in this game in the fourth quarter.

Cibola is my alma mater, yes, but … yikes.

From my keyboard, it is mind-boggling that Brown, the state’s best player, would be on the floor for even one second of that game beyond the first half. Think of the firestorm had Amaya re-injured her knee.

“If she was (in the game in the fourth quarter), it was probably to help direct traffic for our younger kids,” Cibola coach Lori Mabrey said.

Cibola went 13 deep that night, said Mabrey, who was asked about pushing the pace in the second half of a game in which the clock was running.

“I did struggle with, should I direct my kids to hold the basketball?” she said. “It’s a real Catch-22. It crossed my mind. If I had to replay the game tomorrow, I probably would do things differently.”

Compounding the problem? Rio Grande — then and still winless — had only six players in uniform that night. Three starters sat out, but returned the following day vs. Volcano Vista.

Mabrey said she read many comments on websites and social media following the game.

“Both positive and negative,” she said. “I take full responsibility for this score. Hindsight is 20-20.”

The last time I visited this topic was three years ago, after La Cueva’s girls beat Manzano 91-7. It was interesting to note then, that then-Monarchs coach De’Mone Curry had no ill will toward La Cueva whatsoever, saying simply that his team wasn’t very good at that point.

Even more interesting is this: Collins was on the bench that night as a Manzano assistant. And he told me that game had an entirely different vibe from the one last week. Read into that what you will.

Collins said his Ravens were distraught about the loss (who could blame them?) but said that they gave effort until the end.

Look, nobody comes out smelling particularly April fresh on a night like that. It’s a bad look for both teams. This was not a shining moment for Cibola; I think on that point we can all agree.

However, I would like some feedback from readers, or coaches, or basketball fans in general. What is the proper etiquette in this case for a team like Cibola?

Drop me a note and let me know where you stand.

LEG STRENGTH: Can the Eldorado boys sustain this type of excellence and energy for another two months, into the second week of March?

As I wrote the other day, the Eagles go only seven deep. However, to be candid, there is a noticeable drop-off after the starting five. And those five are going to be putting in major minutes during the season’s more important second half.

But Eldorado players I asked about this said coach Roy Sanchez made a concerted effort during the offseason to prepare for this very contingency.

“I think we will (be OK),” Eldorado guard Tyler Quintana said after Eldorado won the metro title last Saturday. “(In the preseason), we focused on conditioning, because we knew we wouldn’t have a lot of bench players.”

Any team that thinks it can win a state title would have to steer clear of foul trouble and injuries in March, obviously. But this will apply to the Eagles more than just about anyone.

BACK TO FORM: The West Mesa girls team I watched methodically take apart Cibola last Saturday in the metro championship game was the team we all admired last season.

This was a corner-turning victory for the Mustangs. True, they defeated a solid Carlsbad group just before the holidays, but this performance put them right back into the blue trophy conversation this season, as it should.

And what’s more, unless Highland can find a way to beat this team in its district, West Mesa seems fairly certain to head into the state tournament the same way it did a year ago — riding a very long winning streak.

HOPE TOURNAMENTS: Hope Christian’s boys and girls are hosting their annual mid-January events this weekend.

The girls’ field is most decidedly more loaded than the boys’ with defending 4A state champion Shiprock, one-loss Los Lunas from 5A, Bloomfield, plus a couple of other solid 4A teams in the host Huskies and West Las Vegas.

Hope meets Hot Springs today in the opening round. Also today, it’s Shiprock-Taos, Los Lunas-Valley and WLV-Bloomfield.

Hope’s boys face Hot Springs tonight in the first round following the Hope girls. Taos-Shiprock, WLV-Socorro and Bloomfield-Zuni are the other first-rounders.

The girls’ final is 5 p.m. Saturday, the boys’ at 7:30.

THIS AND THAT: Cibola’s Brown is a nominee to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game; the teams will be selected next week. … The Las Cruces girls have entered USA Today’s Super 25 national basketball rankings at No. 25, it was announced earlier this week. Class 6A’s top-ranked Lady Bulldawgs are 16-0 after knocking off No. 2 Hobbs 48-44 in a district game Tuesday. … Manzano’s impressive senior forward and its leading scorer, 6-7 Eric Sonnenberg, played for the first time in a month on Tuesday after missing six games with an illness. The Monarchs lost four times with him out of the lineup, although with seven wins, they are still having a tremendous first season with new coach Dominick Romero. … A shoutout to La Cueva student Austin Denton, who assumed play-by-play duties last Saturday for both the boys and girls metro championship games on 101.7-FM after Scott Galetti’s voice failed him. … Among the list of undefeated teams who remain in the state are Bernalillo’s boys, who are 16-0 (I’m featuring them in Friday’s Journal) and the 15-0 Moriarty girls, a team I will be writing about in this space soon. The Spartans face one of their strongest tests of the season tonight at Belen. If they survive the Eagles, Bernalillo has a serious chance of running the table in the regular season.

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