RIO RANCHO, N.M. — For the second Tuesday night in a row, the second-ranked Cleveland High School boys basketball team let an important District 1-5A game get away.
On Jan. 22, an errant inbounds pass by the Storm allowed visiting No. 3 Volcano Vista to convert a shorter inbounds pass into the game-winning basket a few seconds before the buzzer for a 58-57 victory.
On the 29th, No. 5 Atrisco Heritage Academy – the team that beat the Storm in the 6A championship game last March – sent a nip-and-tuck battle with the Storm into overtime when junior guard Joziah Ramos launched a half-court shot that caromed off the backboard
, found its mark and beat the buzzer, tying the game at 76.
A 6-0 run, keyed by six free throws in eight attempts, took the Jaguars from an 83-81 lead to a comfortable 89-81 lead with less than 10 seconds to go in OT.
During that run, the Storm, who’d beaten the Jaguars in an APS Metro Championships semifinal on Jan. 11, saw a layup missed by guard Nakqi Smith, plus two 3-point shots by Aamer Muhammad.
As usual, the game wouldn’t have required OT if the Storm had shown up to start the second half. Their first eight possessions failed to gain points, and along the way they turned the ball over four times, helping AHA turn a 43-34 halftime deficit into a one-point deficit, 52-51, heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s right: The high-powered Storm managed only nine points in the third quarter, not making a field goal until 1:50 was left in the quarter.
It got worse for Cleveland, which had a 73-67 lead with only 24.5 seconds remaining in regulation, after Jalen Munn sank two free throws.
But Ramos connected on a 3 to make it 73-70. After Smith sank two free throws, Ramos hit another 3 for 75-73.
Muhammad then had a chance to make it a two-possession game, but made only one of two free throws with 2.9 on the clock, making it 76-73, and setting the stage for Ramos’s third trey in a row and sending the game into overtime.
Ramos, who’d managed only three field goals in the first half, wound up with a game-high 28 points, including that half-court dagger.
Tre Watson led the Storm, working well inside the paint, with 24. Munn had 20, Smith added 16 and Josh Tarry had 11.
Tarry’s fourth-quarter heroics didn’t go unnoticed: Despite being saddled with four fouls, he scored on back-to-back buckets to give CHS a 65-64 lead, grabbed a defensive rebound at the other end and then passed the ball to Watson for basket and a 68-64 lead, after Watson converted his “and one.”
Storm warnings: The Storm play at Cibola Friday evening at 7.
… Cleveland can improve its standing in 1-5A with a home game with Rio Rancho on Tuesday, followed by a game at Volcano Vista’s “Ring of Fire” on Thursday. Both games start at 7.