Rio Rancho boys alone in first after three 1-5A games

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — How did this happen, fans of the Rio Rancho High School boys basketball team have a right to ask.

The Rams’ coach said before the season that he probably had a fourth-place team in the five-team District 1-5A.

Yet, here are the Rams (17-4 overall, 3-0 in 1-5A) and all alone in first place as they conclude the first half of the district season Tuesday evening at 7 at Cleveland.

It took another gut-wrenching victory, this time a 58-56 triumph over No. 3 Volcano Vista (15-3, 2-1) Thursday evening in the RAC.

“It’s taken us a while to get where we’re at — and it’s so fun right now because the guys believe in each other,” coach Wally Salata said.

“How ironic to end the game: We’re down one, the ball’s in David’s hands; he hits a shot, we’re up one. … Isaiah makes a free throw and Blaine gets the bucket to get us up by four.”

David (Patterson), Isaiah (Chavez) and Blaine (Gallegos) are the usual suspects.

And although it had been missed free throws by the Rams that sent their game at Atrisco Heritage Academy into overtime, this time Chavez’s missed free throw was tipped back to him by Christian Lucero, and Chavez got the ball under the basket to Gallegos, giving the Rams a 58-54 lead.

Cesar Madrid tossed in a meaningless basket that beat the buzzer for the final score.

The Rams scored the game’s first six points and led the entire first half. The Hawks caught them at 35 after scoring the first nine points of the second half. The teams were tied again, at 43, heading into the fourth quarter. A Volcano Vista highlight from the second half: connecting on seven consecutive 3-point attempts, led by Dion Battle hitting five of them.

Neither team led by more than four over the final eight minutes; the Hawks’ last lead was 54-53.

Then Patterson made a shot from the baseline for a 55-54 Rams edge, leading to the heroics from Chavez and Gallegos.

“We told them it’s all about energy for 32 minutes,” Salata said. “We’re excited that we’re in first place, but we’ve got to play (the Hawks) again, Cleveland twice … We got the job done tonight and then focus on Cleveland.”

Gallegos led the Rams with 16 points and Patterson finished with 13, eight of which helped the Rams get off to a great start.

Rams 81, Cibola 44: Junior Hodnett sank five of his team’s six 3-pointers Tuesday evening when the Rams destroyed the visiting Cougars (1-17, 0-3).

The score at halftime, 41-17, left no doubt as to who would win.

Hodnett finished with a career-high 25 points. Patterson had 15, Gallegos had 13 and Chavez added 11 in the rout.

RAMifications: The Rams play just once this week, and they’d better be ready. They’re at Cleveland on Tuesday at 7 in the first of at least two city showdowns. The Storm won all three meetings last season, including a 108-77 rout at CHS; all-time, the Storm are 17-13 vs. RRHS, 9-2 in their games played at Cleveland.