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Unbeatens La Cueva, West Mesa to clash

Stay perfect, walk away with a championship trophy.

That will be the scenario for the winner of today’s Albuquerque Metro Championships girls basketball final between unbeatens West Mesa and La Cueva. The title game is set for 4 p.m. at Volcano Vista.

The Mustangs (12-0) and Bears (11-0) took care of semifinal business Friday night at Volcano Vista to set up the championship showdown. West Mesa coasted to a 57-42 victory over Rio Rancho, and La Cueva held on for a 39-37 win over the host Hawks.

“Two undefeated teams, I guess that’s what you want,” La Cueva coach Robert Perea said of the title-game matchup. “West Mesa’s just been rolling everyone but I look forward to the challenge and so do our players.”

The two District 2-5A rivals figure to see plenty of each another over the remainder of the season but Mustangs coach Manny Otero likes the idea of two unbeatens squaring off for a championship.

“Perfect,” Otero said. “Everyone gets up for a game like this.”

No. 1 WEST MESA 57, No. 4 RIO RANCHO 42: It was far from an ideal start for the Mustangs, who lost starting guard Esperanza Varoz to an ankle injury in the opening minutes and didn’t make their first field goal until 1:07 remained in the first quarter.

But once West Mesa got started, the Rams (10-5) provided little resistance.

Cece Barela scored 14 points, and Jaden Castellano added 13 for the Mustangs, who outscored Rio Rancho 35-9 in the second and third quarters combined. West Mesa used a 15-0 run to build a 41-17 lead in the third quarter and rolled to the finish line. The Mustangs forced 21 Rio Rancho turnovers.

Varoz did not return to the game after rolling her left ankle and is “day to day,” Otero said.

Freshman Kelsie Hawkins scored 11 points, and Jillian Rodriguez added 10 for Rio Rancho.

No. 2 LA CUEVA 39, No. 3 VOLCANO VISTA 37: Kaya Ingram scored all of her team-high 12 points in the second half and the Bears pulled out a tight defensive battle with the Hawks (9-3).

Ingram hit four 3-pointers – three of which gave her team a lead – and La Cueva edged Volcano Vista for the second time this season. The teams also met on opening night.

“Defense did it for us,” Perea said. “We average 65 points a game but when your shots aren’t falling you have to find another way.”

Volcano Vista trailed just 35-34 after a Jaelyn Bates steal and layup with 2:30 remaining. But the Hawks missed two shots with a chance to take the lead and Deja Sandoval’s short jumper and two Kylie Ottmann free throws in the final minute put the Bears up 39-34.

Bates led VVHS with 12 points. Rachael Hathoot scored 10 for La Cueva.