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Fast-paced Hobbs makes improvement

While Las Cruces attracts the lion’s share of the attention among non-metro boys basketball teams, and deservedly so, Hobbs and new coach Shelby Reeves are, in their own way, enjoying a fine season.

And this will be perhaps the Eagles’ most important stretch of the season. Hobbs (17-6 overall, 2-1 in 4-5A) has a big week ahead of it, with a road game today at Roswell and a home game Friday against league-leading Clovis.

Reeves is a 1984 Hobbs graduate who played for the late Ralph Tasker.

And Tasker would surely be warmed to learn that Reeves is attempting to keep these Eagles close to the frenzied pace-of-play philosophies that made Hobbs a national name.

“Sometimes, these kids, that’s what they’re adjusting to,” Reeves said. “They weren’t born into that style, that system.”

Only one Eagle, point guard Rae Tarin, had logged significant minutes last season as this season began.

It is a small Hobbs team, which fits nicely with their desire to push the pace, but it’s also an inexperienced group, and their fate into March is open-ended.

“Being 17-6 at this point is actually pretty good for us,” Reeves said. “Our main deal was to try and maintain and to get these guys some experience headed into district.”

Among Hobbs’ more notable losses are a five-point setback to Los Lunas and a 16-point loss to Cleveland at Hobbs’ holiday tournament. It’s too early to say if the Eagles can play their way to Albuquerque in a month, but as this new era for Hobbs basketball begins, Reeves is relishing the chance to coach his alma mater and take ownership of a program he loves dearly.

“Being in that gym ever since I was 6 years old, being able to come back and be an assistant coach, and then a head coach, has been so wonderful,” Reeves said. “Hobbs has been so supportive, and it’s been a blessing for me to get this opportunity.”

‘HORN’SWAGGLED: Sandia Prep’s Sundevils are 13-9, which maybe doesn’t look all that impressive on the surface. But Sandia Prep’s boys are ranked No. 2 in Class 3A by the coaches, and certainly could be a factor when the postseason begins on March 9.

With losses primarily to larger schools, and with a lineup that wasn’t really fully healthy until about a week ago, Sandia Prep has endured some nicks and bruises.

But the Sundevils, who don’t start a player under 6-feet, are finding a rhythm.

“I think we are rounding into form, and we are starting to finally play the way we can,” Sandia Prep coach Marcos Rivera said. “Last week was the first week I’ve had my entire team.”

Sophomore Sam Henderson, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, and junior Max Feit, are leading Sandia Prep in scoring.

But it’s the Sundevils’ defense, Rivera said, keyed by the likes of seniors Atlee Gaddis — who tends to draw the toughest game-night assignments — and Jacob Montoya that deserve recognition for what’s happening. To that end, the Sundevils’ offensive output has increased of late because Sandia Prep’s defense and rebounding has improved sharply.

Only St. Michael’s is ranked ahead of Sandia Prep in the 3A coaches’ poll.

“We’re in the conversation,” Rivera said. “So many things can happen, and nothing is for sure, but I feel we have a chance to be there (at the end).”

SEEING RED: Sandia’s girls, with a two-game cushion in District 5-5A — and only four games left in the regular season — are, barring catastrophe, going to be a district champion.

But how much love will the Matadors get on Selection Sunday? The coaches, as of last week, didn’t have Sandia (14-6) ranked in the top 10, and the poll (which is part of the seeding criteria) has them at No. 10.

Translation? A young Sandia roster, with eight sophomores, is likely facing a first-round road game in the playoffs despite what will probably be a robust overall record.

“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Matadors coach Lee Kettig said. “It’s still a team that is hopefully getting better every week. We’re a work in progress. We’re not a finished product.”

Kettig pointed to two results on Sandia’s schedule that are likely causing some consternation and/or keeping them down in the polls: a one-point loss to Rio Rancho in the metro tournament quarterfinals, and a lopsided, 41-point loss to Piedra Vista on Jan. 19 when sophomore guard Viane Cumber sat out because of a hamstring issue.

IF YOU WANT TO BE TECHNICAL … : Hope Christian boys coach Jim Murphy earned his 800th career win — kind of — when the Huskies beat Highland last Friday night.

He does have 800 victories — with the boys.

But it is often overlooked that Murphy coached the Hope girls for a season (1982-83), and won 18 games before he took over the boys program, leading them to 16 state championships.

So it’s actually 818 for his varsity career.

MURPHY P.S.: Surely there are hundreds of such anecdotes from former players, but I wanted to share something that Highland High athletic director John Barnhill, whose nickname was “Barney,” told me about Murphy, who was his high school coach. (Barnhill was a guard on Murphy’s first state championshp team in 1985).

“He said, ‘You are the only point guard in the state that is last in sprints!!!’ ”

Barnhill’s smart-aleck reply?

“I’m pacing myself,” Barnhill said, perhaps too cleverly for his own good.

Naturally, Murphy had the last word on this after hearing that comment, and quickly assembled his team for some sprints.

“Everyone on the line for Barney!!” Murphy said.

THIS AND THAT: Eldorado point guard Tyler Quintana “may” be back in the Eagles’ lineup when they play host to La Cueva in a crucial District 2-5A showdown on Friday, Eldorado coach Roy Sanchez said. … A reminder that selection Sunday is only 20 days away. The playoff brackets will be announced on March 3. … West Mesa’s girls have two huge home games this week, tonight against Piedra Vista (the only team to beat the Mustangs this season) and Saturday afternoon versus Farmington.