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Jaguars surge past Bears

Atrisco Heritage’s Marquis Crawford, left, is fouled by La Cueva’s Micah Cooper during their game Friday night at La Cueva. ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL

Joziah Ramos’ position change for the Atrisco Heritage Academy boys basketball team isn’t slowing him down.

Ramos, the Jaguars’ high-octane junior guard and one of Class 5A’s most explosive and dependable scorers, had a game-best 30 points as sixth-ranked Atrisco Heritage went on the road, dominated the second half and smacked La Cueva 70-50 on Friday night.

“He’s our guy and he’s doing a good job of learning how to read (the floor),” Atrisco Heritage coach Adrian Ortega said. “This year, he’s having to work a hell of a lot harder for his shots.”

The Jaguars (7-2), oddly enough, have largely been a first-half team this season, Ortega said.

This, then, was an anomaly, as Atrisco Heritage had one of its best second halves of the season.

After leading La Cueva 27-25 at halftime, the Jaguars buried early 3-pointers from Isaiah Brooks and Elijah Gaxiola, and Ramos added a three-point play to make it 39-28 barely 2½ minutes into the second half.

“I was a little bit worried about how we’d come out tonight,” Ortega said. “We’ve had trouble responding all year in the second half.”

Ramos, who moved from shooting guard to point guard this season, had 14 of his 30 points in that third quarter, including a pair of 3s, as Atrisco Heritage outscored La Cueva 27-14 to pull away.

“It was a rough start, but once I get going with my team, it helps them, and ultimately it helps me as well,” Ramos said.

The third-quarter burst was a long way from the start of the game, when the Bears (3-5) started quickly with the game’s first eight points, including 3-pointers from Micah Cooper and Derek Aeilts.

“It’s just how you respond,” Ramos said. “As long as you get it back together.”

Atrisco Heritage stayed patient, ratcheted up the defense and gradually reeled in La Cueva. Ramos hit a short jumper off the glass just before the end of the first half for a 27-25 lead. There was little drama after halftime – with the exception of some anxious moments regarding the health of Atrisco Heritage’s outstanding defensive stopper, DeMarcus Sutphen.

Late in the third quarter, Sutphen raced out to close out on a baseline shooter. A ball fake got him airborne, and he tumbled over the La Cueva player’s back and came crashing down hard onto the floor.

Sutphen spent some time on the bench, but returned to the game in the fourth quarter. Sutphen and Ramos were the two key pieces returning this season for Atrisco Heritage, coming off its state championship last March.

“A lot of people think we lost all of our good players,” Ramos said. “But as a team, we can do anything. We have good chemistry.”

La Cueva and Atrisco Heritage are next on the court Tuesday in the first round of the Albuquerque Metro Championships.

The fourth-seeded Jags face Sandia and the ninth-seeded Bears take on Manzano.

Isaiah Ortega led La Cueva on Friday with 11 points.

– James Yodice

LAS CRUCES 52, LOS LUNAS 29: In Las Cruces, Class 5A’s second-ranked Bulldawgs (13-0) pounded Class 4A’s top-ranked Tigers, as Gonzalo Corbalan scored a team-high 16 points for Las Cruces.

The Bulldawgs play host to No. 8 Roswell today before opening district play next week.

RIO RANCHO 82, PIEDRA VISTA 62: In Rio Rancho, senior guard David Patterson had 24 points and Blaine Gallegos added 20 as the Rams (8-2) beat the Panthers for the second time in eight days.

HIGHLAND 81, FARMINGTON 68: At Valley High School, Raul Marquez poured in 30 points as the Hornets (4-2) downed the Scorpions.

ST. PIUS 54, KIRTLAND CENTRAL 41: At Kirtland, Zack Kolkmeyer had a team-high 18 points as the Sartans (6-5) pulled away in the second half.

BERNALILLO 70, VALENCIA 64: In Bernalillo, Luis Villegas led the Spartans (9-3) with 23 points.