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Class 6A boys: Atrisco Heritage, Cleveland win wild ones

Two overtimes in the first semifinal.

And controversy in the second one.

When Dreamstyle Arena had emptied after a memorably dramatic Thursday, left standing in the Class 6A boys state basketball tournament were No. 3 seed Atrisco Heritage and No. 5 Cleveland.

Which means there will be a first-time state champion on Saturday night.

The Jaguars edged Las Cruces in two OTs in the early evening, and the Storm got a putback at the buzzer to upset Eldorado in the day’s crazy and exciting finale.

Atrisco Heritage (25-3) and Cleveland (22-9) will meet at 8 p.m. Saturday in the championship game.

No. 5 CLEVELAND 70, No. 1 ELDORADO 68: The Storm was down five, 68-63, with 43 seconds left, but staged a furious rally, capped by freshman Tre Watson’s rebound and game-winning putback at the buzzer.

Before that, Aamer Muhammad buried a 3-pointer and scored on a layup with 17 seconds left, following an Eldorado turnover, to tie the game at 68.

Then another turnover put the ball in the Storm’s hands for a final shot with 8.3 seconds to go.

Jalen Munn, who was outstanding with 23 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland, missed the initial try. In fact, he missed the rim entirely. It bounced off the backboard.

“I knew when Jalen shot it, there was three seconds left,” said Watson, who was terrific in a 14-point effort on 7-of-11 shooting. “(Eldorado’s Tyler) Rodgers missed it, so I grabbed it off the ground and put it up.”

The video replay of the play seemed to show the ball in Watson’s hands when the red light on the backboard illuminated.

“The ball was clearly in his hand,” Eldorado coach Roy Sanchez said.

“Yes, he did (get it off in time),” Storm coach Sean Jimenez said. “No question.”

Watson’s putback was the 14th and final lead change in a hugely enjoyable, tense and thrilling contest between the Eagles (25-3), who saw their 20-game winning streak snapped, and Cleveland.

Cleveland also came from five down in Wednesday’s quarterfinals against Volcano Vista. Thursday, the Storm’s pressure defense forced Eldorado into two rushed turnovers in that final minute.

“We could have folded,” Jimenez said. “In the middle of the season, we weren’t winning these games. In the middle of the season, that’s a nine-point loss.”

Eldorado shot 55 percent (21 of 38), Cleveland 51 percent (27 of 53).

CLEVELAND (22-9): Jakob Medina 3, Justin Ainsworth 1, Jayden Phillips 10, Jalen Munn 23, Tre Watson 14, Isaiah Molina 0, Nakqi Smith 9, Aamer Muhammad 10. Totals: 27-53 FG, 12-15 FT, 70.

ELDORADO (25-3): Tyler Quintana 26, Mike Mounho 7, Jalen Domina-Lovato 13, Tyler Rodgers 0, Kameron Valencia 22, Coby Coon 0. Totals: 21-38 FG, 21-24 FT, 68.

Cleveland 16 15 16 23—70

Eldorado 16 15 13 24—68

3-Point FG: C 4 (Phillips 1-3, Munn 0-1, Smith 1-1, Muhammad 2-7); E 5 (Quintana 3-7, Mounho 0-1, Domina-Lovato 1-2, Rodgers 0-2, Valencia 1-1). Rebounds: C 29 (Munn 12); E 28 (Rodgers 6). Assists: C 15 (Phillips 4); E 9 (Domina-Lovato 4). Team Fouls: C 21; E 12.


The word was written on the back of the warm-up outfits for the Las Cruces Bulldawgs.


But it will instead be Atrisco Heritage — every bit as driven by heartache as the Bulldawgs were when this season began 3½ months ago — that is now presented with the opportunity to find some for itself.

Led by cold-blooded sophomore Joziah Ramos, the third-seeded Jaguars on Thursday night advanced to the Class 6A boys basketball state championship game, outlasting No. 2 Las Cruces 50-46 in a double-overtime semifinal thriller at Dreamstyle Arena.

Atrisco Heritage (25-2), reaching the final for the first time since 2014, will face No. 5 Cleveland in Saturday’s 8 p.m. championship game.

After losing in last year’s semis to Volcano Vista, the Jaguars set out to get to that next level this weekend. That was Las Cruces’ theme all season, too, after the Bulldawgs (29-2) fell to Volcano in the title game.

“We teach our kids to be humble, first and foremost,” Atrisco Heritage coach Adrian Ortega said. “It hurt last year, and our kids (lived) with that all year long. But the disappointment that our program had, and the buy-in that our kids, shows that (commitment).”

In a meticulous, measured game between the two most experienced rosters in 6A, it was Ramos, the Jaguars’ talented 10th-grader, who provided the difference.

He had all four points in the first overtime, and he also scored the first four in the second OT. He finished with 21 points.

“Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it, a sophomore dominating on the varsity level,” Atrisco Heritage senior forward Jordan Arroyo said. “But we know what he’s capable of.”

Ramos has shown explosiveness throughout his still-young varsity career. In the regular season, he put up 44 points on Gadsden.

“Not done yet,” Ramos said succinctly, asked about his performance in the overtimes. “(We’re) still going.”

In the second OT, tied at 44, Ramos drove to the hoop and knocked down a 5-foot shot off the glass for the first points. Moments later, on a feed from Diego Ortega, he scored on a layup.

Enrique Bibian of the Jags added two free throws with 36 seconds to go for a 50-44 lead.

Arroyo had the final field goal of regulation, a 3-pointer that tied the game at 40 with 2:20 showing.

The Bulldawgs missed crucial free throws late in regulation and the first OT that loomed large.

But despite that, Marcus Scott scored the game-tying bucket for Las Cruces with 17 seconds left that necessitated the second four-minute overtime. Las Cruces was down four in the final minute of the first OT.

“They (Atrisco) did a tremendous job defensively,” Las Cruces coach William Benjamin said. “We missed some free throws down the stretch.”

“It hurts right now,” Benjamin added, “because the goal was to get to the state championship.”

R.J. Brown had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Las Cruces. Teammate Vincente Johnson scored a team-best 17 points.

Arroyo finished with 11 points and five rebounds. The Jaguars’ biggest lead in regulation was five points. Las Cruces’ was six, 36-30, early in the fourth quarter.

ATRISCO HERITAGE (25-3): Angel Ramirez 0, Enrique Bibian 9, Dominic Rivas 0, Joziah Ramos 21, DeMarcus Sutphen 3, Diego Ortega 6, Zac Carmagnani 0, Jordan Arroyo 11. Totals 16-42 13-19 50.LAS CRUCES (29-2): Alanso Johnson 0, Markus Collins 5, Cayden Sherwood 4, Ray Brown 2, Shae Hernandez 0, R.J. Brown 12, Marcus Scott 6, Sal Nevarez 0, Vincente Johnson 17. Totals 19-51 7-12 46.

Atrisco Heritage 15 8 7 10 4 6 — 50

Las Cruces 10 14 4 12 4 2 — 46

3-point goals: AH 5 (Ortega 2, Bibian, Ramos, Arroyo); LC 1 (Collins). Rebounds: AH 30 (Sutphen 7); LC 39 (R.J Brown 10). Assists: AH 10 (Ortega 3); LC 11 (Scott 7). Total fouls: AH 11; LC 20. Fouled out: LC, Scott.