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Prep Championship Saturday: Atrisco repeats; Valley boys, West Mesa win state

The seventh and final game of Championship Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit is over, with Atrisco Heritage defeating Santa Fe in a classic Class 5A boys (large school) final.
Below are the details of that game and the six others.

CLASS 5A BOYS (click here for the bracket)

Atrisco Heritage’s Isaiah Brooks, center, celebrates with his teammates after the Jaguars beat Santa Fe to win the Class 5A state championship Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

No. 6 ATRISCO HERITAGE 61, No. 5 SANTA FE 58: Last year, the Atrisco Heritage Academy boys basketball program won the school’s first-ever sports championship.

On Saturday night, the Jaguars doubled up.

Atrisco Heritage became the first team in nine years in New Mexico’s largest classification to repeat as state champion, as the sixth-seeded Jaguars won a stirring final played before a crowd estimated at 14,000 at Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit.

“This one was way tougher,” said Atrisco Heritage senior forward DeMarcus Sutphen. “Santa Fe? Nothing but respect to them.”

La Cueva (2009-10) was the last big-school boys repeat state champion.

There were 12 lead changes in a game that proved to be every bit as competitive and compelling as the lead-up.

The Jaguars received significant contributions from guards Dominic Rivas and Isaiah Brooks to supplement Joziah Ramos, and Atrisco Heritage made 11 of 14 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Most of those came as the Jags (22-7) tried to fend off the Demons (24-8) — who had the majority of fans in the building — in the waning moments.

“Atrisco Heritage is a blue collar school,” said Jaguars coach Adrian Ortega, who has taken this team to the championship game three times in the last six seasons. “They work hard. This is very well deserved.”

Junior guard Ramos, who finished with a team-best 22 points, hit a pair of free throws with 1:53 remaining for a 55-54 lead.

The Jaguars stayed in front with solid work from the line from the likes of Sutphen and, especially, Brooks, who made four free throws in the last 43.5 seconds.

The last of those occurred with 1.9 seconds to go for a 61-58 lead.

Santa Fe drew up a play to give the Demons a desperation try, but Cody Garcia came up well short from half court, and the celebration began in earnest for Atrisco Heritage.

Brooks finished with 11 points.

Rivas, whose cousin Maiah had an outstanding game for West Mesa earlier in the day as the Mustangs also lifted a blue trophy, was dazzling.

“We don’t win without him,” Ortega said.

Rivas, a junior, rained down five 3-pointers on Santa Fe’s defense in the first half. He finished with six (on 6 of 9 shooting), and his 18 points were extremely welcome, particularly early as Ramos struggled to find his scoring groove.

“I expected that,” Ramos said of Rivas’ performance.

Rivas just smiled when he was asked if his cousin had inspired him. “She got one,” he said to laughter from his teammates. “I had to get one.”

Aside from an early Atrisco Heritage run, the teams were closely matched throughout. The Jaguars led 16-12 at the end of one quarter, 31-29 at halftime and 42-40 after three quarters. There was punching and counter-punching from both teams, often in the form of trading 3-pointers in bunches, to the delight of the large crowd.

“It was the best environment I’ve ever been around,” Sutphen said.

The Jaguars had 16 turnovers, but only a manageable 11 in the final three quarters.

“We had the guys we wanted shooting the ball,” Santa Fe coach Zack Cole said of the fourth quarter. “They just didn’t drop.”

It was not the storybook ending Santa Fe had hoped to complete. The Demons were in the final for the first time since winning it all in 1978.

“A dream season,” Cole said.

Antonio Lovato and Garcia each finished with 14 points for Santa Fe.

Meanwhile, Ortega didn’t waste any time looking ahead, even as they hadn’t even begun celebrating this night.

“I will tell you this,” Ortega said in the postgame. “We’re not done yet, either.”

— James Yodice

No. 6 ATRISCO HERITAGE 61,

No. 5 SANTA FE 58

ATRISCO HERITAGE (22-7): Dominic Rivas 6-9 0-0 18, Isaiah Brooks 2-7 6-8 11, Joziah Ramos 6-15 8-9 22, DeMarcus Sutphen 0-3 3-4 3, Marquis Crawford 2-2 0-0 4, D.J. Ornelas 0-0 0-0 0, Elijah Gaxiola 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 17-38 17-21 61.

SANTA FE (24-8): Christian Kavanaugh 2-9 0-0 5, Cruz Martinez 5-13 0-0 10, Antonio Lovato 4-12 4-4 14, Derek Carlton 0-0 2-2 2, Derrick Solano 0-3 0-0 0, Carlos Dassaro 4-8 0-0 10, Ramon Roybal 0-2 0-0 0, Cody Garcia 5-7 0-0 14, Paul Lovato 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-56 6-6 58.

Atrisco Heritage 16 15 11 19 — 61

Santa Fe 12 17 11 18 — 58

3-point goals: AH 10-24 (Rivas 6-9, Ramos 2-7, Gaxiola 1-2, Brooks 1-5, Sutphen 0-1); SF 10-27 (Garcia 4-6, Dassaro 2-3, Kavanaugh 2-5, Lovato 2-6, Roybal 0-2, Martinez 0-5). Rebounds: AH 35 (Crawford 11); SF 25 (Solano 7). Assists: AH 10 (Ramos, Crawford, Ornelas); SF 11 (Martinez 5). Total fouls: AH 9; SF 13. Steals: AH 4; SF 5. Turnovers: AH 16; SF 6. Blockeds: AH 6; SF 1.

:

Melrose players celebrate after they beat Fort Sumner to win the Class 1A state championship Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

CLASS 1A BOYS (click here for bracket)

No. 5 MELROSE 54, No. 2 FORT SUMNER 50: Melrose (25-7) and Fort Sumner (23-9) met three times during the season with the games decided by 11 total points. So of course, the Class 1A boys state championship final wasn’t decided until late.

But the No. 5 Buffaloes never trailed, outscoring the No. 2 Foxes 17-14 in the fourth quarter to claim avictory and their eighth state title.

“(Fort Sumner) never goes away. They’re a good program. Tthey’re just tough,” Melrose coach Kevin Lackey said. “Every game was a battle. It gets chippy, but it’s just a high level of competition.”

Jude Segura scored a game high 22 points for Fort Sumner while Dylan Valentine led Melrose with 15.

Both teams endured a ragged offensive start full of wild shots and turnovers. The schools combined to shoot 6-of-26 in the first quarter.

Down 18-8, the Foxes ripped off a 9-0 run by upping its offensive tempo and stingy zone defense. But the Buffaloes answered with a 10-2 spurt to close the first half and take a 28-19 into the break.

Melrose was just 3-of-10 from the foul line in the first half and 8-of-19 through three quarters leaving the door open for Fort Sumner. For the game the Buffaloes were 15-of-37 from the stripe.

“We shot (free throws) really well the first two games up here,” Lackey said. “We could have made our lives a lot easier.”

A more efficient second-half offensive approach, inside-out, drew the Foxes to 37-36 entering the fourth quarter.

“We turned up the pressure a little bit, mixed up our defenses a little bit,” Fort Sumner coach Brad Holland said. “We got back in it by getting to the rack.”

The Buffaloes cleaned the offensive glass and hit a 3 to stretch their edge to 44-36 with 5:30 left. The Foxes trailed 54-50 with 13 seconds left after a Segura 3, but he was short from the corner on his next attempt and Melrose survived.

“We got it going with our big guys inside,” Melrose point guard Tristan Sena said. “When we play off the big guys that’s when we’re at our best. We’re more balanced than anyone in 1A.”

For the game, Fort Sumner shot 20-of-73 (27 percent) including 5-of-35 (14 percent) on 3s. Melrose outrebounded Fort Sumner 62-45.

“We got the shots we wanted. They didn’t fall tonight (and) we couldn’t get to the line,” Holland said. “Ball just didn’t drop, wouldn’t go in the hole.”

No. 7 MELROSE 54, No. 2 FORT SUMNER 50

FORT SUMNER (23-9): Francisco Chavez 0-1 0-0 0, Parker Lewis 0-1 0-0 0, Alex Moyer 2-4 0-0, Jayden Terrell 1-5 2-2 5, Cory Terrell 2-10 1-2 5, Jude Segura 9-26 1-1 22, Noah Maxwell 5-19 0-0 10, Kane Burney 1-7 1-2 4, Izaiah Padilla 0-0 0-0, Totals 20-73 5-7 50.

MELROSE (25-7): Vincent Hinojosa 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Valentine 5-13 2-4 15, Tristan Sena 3-8 4-8 10, Devon Bailey 2-5 2-4 6, Trace Jackson 2-6 3-4 9, Tate Sorgen 4-11 4-12 12, Chazz McAlister 1-4 0-5 2, Totals 17-47 15-37 54.

Melrose 10 18 9 17 — 54

Fort Sumner 4 15 17 14 — 50

3-Point Goals: FS 5-35 (Segura 3-10, Chavez 0-1, J. Terrell 1-5, C. Terrell 0-5, Maxwell 0-8, Burney 1-6), M 5-11 (Valentine 3-5, Sena 0-1, Jackson 2-4, McAlister 0-1). Assists: FS 10 (Maxwell 3, Burney 3), M 9 (Jackson 3, Sena 3). Rebounds: FS 45 (Segura 12), M 62 (Valentine 12). Total Fouls: FS 24, M 12. Fouled out: FS (Burney, Chavez).

Valley’s Jevon Baker runs for joy after his team defeated Los Lunas for the Class 4A boys title Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

CLASS 4A BOYS (click here for bracket)

No. 7 VALLEY 37, No. 1 LOS LUNAS 34: Valley was no better than a .500 team in the regular season, but it was undefeated when it mattered the most.The seventh-seeded Vikings knocked off top-seeded Los Lunas in the 4A boys’ basketball championship game, securing a 37-34 victory Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit.

It was the fourth state championship for Valley (17-13), who most recently won a (large-school) 5A state title in 2014.

“I thought we were pretty talented coming into the year,” said Valley head coach Joe Coleman “We just struggled, then we ran into Volcano Vista and lost by 46. And I think that was something where we thought, ‘wait a second, this could go south quickly.'”

The Vikings gained momentum in late January/early February by winning four games in a row, but entered the state tournament coming off a 16-point district tournament loss to Hope Christian.

Fortunately, the slate was wiped clean in the state playoffs.

“We played in a tough district, and when you play in a tough district, you have to be better every night, or you’re not going to make the tournament,” Coleman said. “So, we got in at .500, and I felt good about our guys. We knew the road ahead was not going to be easy playing Highland and Hope. I think (those games) just made us better for this last run here at the end.”

Los Lunas (27-4) entered the tournament on the strength of an 18-game winning streak – one of those wins a 48-38 triumph over the Vikings. And in that streak, only one victory was decided by fewer than 10 points.

“The last time we played them, they were missing some guys,” said Los Lunas coach Travis Julian of his team’s first meeting with Valley. “We knew that game had no bearing on this game at all.”

Much like that first meeting, points came at a premium.

Los Lunas, which typically generates scoring off its pressing and trapping defense, was held to just five points in the fourth, and just one bucket over final 7 minutes and 26 seconds.

“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to get into our press tonight,” said Julian. “We like to get into our press in dead balls, and didn’t get those opportunities. That’s what gets us going (on offense).”

Despite the meager offensive output in the fourth, the Tigers were in position to take the lead in the final seconds.

After forcing a Valley turnover at midcourt with 20 seconds left, Los Lunas took possession of the ball trailing 35-34.

Valley had two fouls to give before sending Los Lunas into the foul-shooting bonus, and used the first one five seconds in. The plan was to foul again, but Los Lunas guard Joseph Dominguez found a seam in Valley defense and whipped a behind-the-back pass to teammate Bryce Santana under the basket.

Santana got off a shot that fell short of the rim, and the loose ball was batted out to Valley’s Derick Chavez.

Chavez, Valley’s leading overall scorer in the tournament the first three games, was fouled with 2.5 seconds left and sent to the line for a one-and-one situation.

Chavez drained two free throws – his only points of the game – and Los Lunas’ tying shot attempt from Zanen Zeller at the buzzer was off the mark.

“Their kid made a great play (at the end),” Coleman said. “He went around the back, but someone came up from behind (for us) and got a good block. We were just trying to hold on to the ball and get fouled before we turned it over. Fortunately, we got away with that one.”

Shey Oyeku delivered a game-high 19 points for Valley, including a go-ahead driving bucket with 1:25 left that gave the Vikings a 35-34 lead.

Zeller scored 16 to top Los Lunas.

— Patrick Newell

VALLEY (17-13): Derick Chavez 0-4 2-2 2; Adam Giron 0-2 0-0 0; Garret Mosley 0-1 0-0 0; Gio Casaus 1-3 0-0 3; Shey Oyeku 9-14 0-2 19; Tim Gonzales 2-2 0-0 4; Mateo Hernandez 0-0 0-0 0; Jevon Baker 4-7 1-2 9. Totals 16-33 3-6 37.

LOS LUNAS (27-4): Jacob Sanchez 0-1 0-0 0; AJ Garcia 2-4 0-0 4; Joseph Dominguez 2-5 0-0 6; Darius Haywood 2-8 0-0 4; Zanen Zeller 6-17 0-0 16; Cody Vocu 0-0 0-0 0; Bryce Santana 2-6 0-2 4. Totals: 14-41 0-2 34.

Valley 11 9 7 10- —37

Los Lunas 10 7 12 5 —34

3-point goals: V 2-11 (Oyeku 1-5, Casaus 1-3, Giron 0-2, Chavez 0-1); LL 6-19 (Zeller 4-11, Dominguez 2-4, Haywood 0-3, Sanchez 0-1). Assists: V 6 (Chavez 2); LL 7 (Sanchez, Dominguez 2); Rebounds: V 25 (Mosley 5, Baker 5); LL 24 (Garcia 5, Zeller 5). Turnovers: V 9; LL 7. Team fouls: V 9; LL 7.

Members of West Mesa team want their hands on the championship trophy they worked hard to obtain after beating Hobbs 63-51 in the Class 5A girls final. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

CLASS 5A GIRLS (click here for bracket)

No. 3 WEST MESA 63, No. 1 HOBBS 51: Hobbs had the 21. But West Mesa had blackjack.Not only did the Mustangs survive a 21-0 Eagles run in the first half of Saturday’s Class 5A girls basketball state championship game, but the Mustangs won going away as No. 3-seeded West Mesa captured its first-ever title, 63-51 over No. 1 Hobbs at Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit.

“Honestly, it feels amazing, because you’ve been dreaming about this since you were little,” said West Mesa senior guard Maiah Rivas after a sterling 23-point, four-rebound, two-assist performance.

Rivas, Esperanza Varoz and Jeniffer Martinez arrived at West Mesa before their freshman season, a much buzzed-about group who infused this program — long one of Albuquerque’s most downtrodden — with the most talent it probably ever had.

On the final day of their prep careers, that potential finally was realized.

“It’s so much more than you imagine,” said Varoz, whose 15 points included an 11-for-12 performance from the free-throw line. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

Aside from a disastrous six-minute stretch, West Mesa (28-3) certainly didn’t look or act the part of a first-time state finalist.

But you can’t talk about the rest without first delving into those six minutes.

West Mesa had a nice start, leading 10-5 five minutes into the game. However, between a 3-pointer by Cece Barela and a free throw by Varoz with 5:11 to go in the first half, Hobbs rattled off 21 consecutive points in a monster run.

Senior guard MacKenzye Gibson started the run with one 3-pointer and capped it with two more treys, as the Eagles (29-3, with two losses to West Mesa) enjoyed a 26-10 lead.

“We knew they were gonna go on runs,” said West Mesa coach Manny Otero, who joined a select group Saturday as a state champion as both coach and player (1993 with Albuquerque High). “But our girls were resilient and kept their composure.”

Otero was asked if he could have imagined a scenario in which West Mesa gave up a 21-0 run and still won this game.

“I could have never imagined that,” he said.

But those final five minutes of the first half proved quite useful for the Mustangs, who chipped away at that deficit and pulled within 32-27 by halftime. Those may have been the most important five minutes of the game, and during this spell Hobbs coach Joe Carpenter sent several starters to the bench who had multiple fouls.

“We had kids in foul trouble all over the place,” he said. “They have all-state guards, and my bench isn’t as good as their all-state guards.”

Neither bench had much of an impact in terms of scoring. West Mesa’s five scored all 63 points, while Hobbs only got 1 point from its reserves.

West Mesa finally caught and passed Hobbs at the end of the third quarter. But it was five straight points from Rivas midway through the fourth quarter, including a 3, that put the Mustangs in front for good at 53-48.

The Mustangs were 19-for-20 from the free-throw line. Hobbs was just 2-for-4.

Carpenter half a dozen times in the postgame interview cited the disparity in free throws between the teams.

But the Eagles didn’t attack much in the first half as they surprisingly proved to be the more efficient 3-point shooting team.

“I looked over at my coaches … does Hobbs shoot the ball this well? I was in shock,” Otero said. West Mesa limited the Eagles to 27 percent shooting (7 of 27) after halftime.

Wisdom Anthony, an eighth-grader, led Hobbs with 16 points. Ayanna Smith added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Eagles were the Class 6A state champion last year.

“I think the one thing that made this team different,” Otero said, “is that we have a belief that we’re gonna win the game.”

— James Yodice

WEST MESA (28-3): Monique Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Jeniffer Martinez 0-0 0-0, Maiah Rivas 7-13 6-6 23, Esperanza Varoz 2-5 11-12 15, Emily Burk 4-10 0-0 10, Cece Barela 2-7 0-0 6, Jazmin Cordova 3-6 2-2 9, Crystal Aspaas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-42 19-20 63.

HOBBS (29-3): Amiah Smith 4-7 1-2 9, Wisdom Anthony 7-16 0-0 16, MacKenzye Gibson 4-6 0-0 12, Michelle Cano 0-2 0-0 0, Ashley Aragon 0-3 0-0 0, Ayanna Smith 5-14 2-2 12, A’Niya Heckard 0-0 0-0 0, Mariah Jennings 0-5 1-2 1, Elise Turrubiates 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 20-54 5-8 51.

West Mesa 10 17 16 20 — 63

Hobbs 15 17 10 9 — 51

3-point goals: WM 8-23 (Rivas 3-8, Burk 2-5, Barela 2-7, Cordova 1-2, Jackson 0-1); H 6-17 (Gibson 4-5, Anthony 2-5, Aragon 0-3, Am.Smith 0-2, Jennings 0-1, Cano 0-1). FG Pct.: WM 36 first half, 50 second half, 43 game; H 48 first half, 26 second half, 37 game. Rebounds: WM 30 (Burk 7); H 32 (Ay.Smith 10). Assists: WM 11 (Varoz 5); H 7 (Am.Smith 3). Total fouls: WM 11; H 20. Fouled out: H, Am.Smith, Gibson. Steals: WM 10; H 9. Turnovers: WM 16; H 18. Blocks: WM 1; H 3.

Hot Springs celebrate its 56-54 overtime win over Sante Fe Indian School (SFIS) in the Class 3A boys title game. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

CLASS 3A BOYS (click here for bracket)

No. 3 HOT SPRINGS 56, No. 4 SANTA FE INDIAN 54 (OT): Hot Springs completed a remarkable two-year turnaround to capture the school’s third-ever state championship.

The Tigers rallied from 14 points down in the first half, and hung on against Santa Fe Indian in overtime picking up a 56-54 victory in the 3A boys’ basketball championship game Saturday afternoon at Dreamstyle Arena.

Hot Springs head coach, Derek Bean, inherited a team a season ago that had been through multiple coaching changes in recent years, and it had been 18 years since the program’s last winning season.

The Tigers (27-4) squeezed into the tournament as a 16th seed a year ago, only to be eliminated by Bernalillo in a 49-point defeat.

Yet, Bean last year was a huge first step.

“We knew we had everybody coming back,” Bean said. “We made a promise to each other: Put in the hard work, and hard work will pay off. This (championship) isn’t just given to you. You have to sacrifice, and put a lot of the little things on the backburner to get where we are today. Today is a true testament of what hard work gets you – and we don’t want to talk about Bernalillo anymore.”

After 12 lead changes or ties in the second half and overtime, Hot Springs took the lead for good when sophomore Verrels Lukman buried two charity tosses with 1:23 left in OT giving his club a 53-52 lead.

Lukman added two more free throws with 11.5 seconds left pushing his club over the top.

“I was a state free throw champion,” Lukman said, whose teammates quickly teased him for mentioning that fact. “But every practice, I have to make 20 free throws before I leave. I think that paid off.”

Sante Fe Indian (20-12) was seeking its first state championship in 30 years, and was well on pace to a title in the opening half building a 28-14 lead with 3:11 left in the second following Virgil Valencia’s layup.

But the Tigers scored the last four points of the first half, and used a 15-4 start to the third quarter to grab its first lead of the game, 33-32.

From there, neither team led by more than three points, and Santa Fe Indian head coach Jason Abeyta was left to lament the points his team left on the board.

The Braves were 7 of 16 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and overtime including 5 of 10 in the four-minute overtime period.

“Our nemesis (free throw shooting) showed its neck tonight,” said Braves coach Jason Abeyta. “Man, we just didn’t knock down free throws…I know it’s hard on them with what happened, it just came down to us missing free throws.”

Lukman had 17 points to lead Hot Springs, who won 2A state titles in 1991 and 1993.

“We spent a lot of time in practice sharing blood, sweat, and tears,” said Hot Springs senior Michael Ortiz. “We all shared one goal, and that was to bring home the blue trophy to our town.”

James Bridges scored 16 points to top Santa Fe Indian’s scorers.

— Patrick Newell

 

SANTA FE INDIAN (20-12): Ethan Roanhorse 5-7 0-0 10; Jason Abeyta 2-4 0-0 4; David Arquero 0-0 0-0 0; Anders Pecos 2-10 3-6-7; Virgil Valencia 2-4 1-2 6; James Bridges 6-10 3-8 16; Jaden Aguino 5-11 0-0 11; Shaun Riley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-46 7-16 54.

HOT SPRINGS (27-4): Michael Ortiz 0-0 1-2 1; Aljon Pinili 0-1 0-0 0; Coltin Whitehead 4-9 3-3 11; Verrels Lukman 5-10 4-7 17; Nathan Salcido 3-7 0-0 6; James Childress 2-2 0-0 4; Tino Luna 4-9 0-0 8; Juan Avalos 3-11 3-7 9. Totals: 21-49 11-19 56.

Santa Fe Indian 14 14 8 11 7 —54

Hot Springs 11 7 20 9 9 —56

3-point goals: SFIS 3-14 (Roanhorse 0-1, Abeyta 0-1, Pecos 0-4, Valencia 1-3, Bridges 1-3, Aguino 1-2). HS 3-12 (Lukman 3-5, Pinili 0-1, Whitehead 0-3, Salcido 0-1, Luna 0-2). Assists: SFIS 11 (Abeyta 5), HS 7 (Ortiz 2, Whitehead 2, Lukman 2). Rebounds: SFIS 33 (Bridges 7), HS 36 (Luna 11). Turnovers: SFIS 11, HS 10. Team fouls: SFIS 15, HS 13. Fouled out: SFIS, Roanhorse.

Members of the Tatum girls basketball team celebrate their 57-48 win over Melrose. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

CLASS 1A GIRLS (click here for bracket)

No. 2 TATUM 57, No. 1 MELROSE 48: Some 10 months ago, the Tatum girls basketball team made a promise to incoming coach Vince Homer.

“We sat in a library and I knew them. And I knew they had some talent,” said Homer, who led the Rio Rancho boys for three seasons from 2001-2004. “I’ve never been in the Pit. I want to coach a game in the Pit. They said, ‘Coach, we promise we’ll get you there.'”

On Saturday, the Coyotes delivered on that vow, rallying from a 10-point third quarter deficit to defeat top-seeded Melrose 57-48 in the Class 1A championship game at DreamStyle Arena — the Pit. It was a series of firsts for Homer: first season as Tatum girls coach, first season coaching girls basketball and, most importantly, first blue trophy.

“We’ve had this date (March 16) written on our whiteboard in our locker room since the first day of practice,” said Tatum senior Maddy Rice, who was one of four Coyotes in double figures with 13 points.

The Coyotes (27-4) had to use that resolve to dig themselves out of a hole in the second half. Down 32-22 with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter, four Tatum players scored during a 16-2 run to close the period with a 38-34 advantage. While Melrose held a significant edge in points in the paint (28-12) and rebounding (47-29), the Buffaloes were bothered by the speed and pressure of the Coyotes, particularly during that run.

Up until that point, Tatum stayed afloat at the foul line, so it was only fitting that the Coyotes sealed their victory at the stripe in the final stanza. Tatum shot 34-for-42 on free throws, an 81 percent clip. Melrose (24-6) struggled by comparison, going just 15-for-35 (43 percent).

Celeste Jimenez, another senior, led the way for Tatum, hitting 14 of 18 freebies en route to 21 points.

“The first two I was kind of nervous,” Jimenez said. “Then I got those out of the way and I was like, ‘I know I’ve got these.’ It’s just like shooting a free throw at home. It’s simple.”

Before she helped Homer win a title, Jimenez was a “champion dribble tag expert” at his basketball camps when he was coaching the Tatum boys. Over the course of the season, Homer has built relationships beyond basketball with his squad.

“We talked about state championships then,” he said. “But along the way, I fell in love with these girls and how hard they work and how well they take care of each other.”

— Tristen Critchfield

TATUM (27-4): Sarah Coombes 0-2 0-0 0, Taylor Graham 2-6 5-5 10, Kheyenne Huysman 0-0 0-0 0, Maddy Rice 2-6 9-10 13, Celeste Jimenez 3-10 14-18 21, Abigail Duran 3-9 6-9 13, Kylie West 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-33 34-42 57.

MELROSE (24-6): Hailey Martin 7-9 6-11 21, Kiki Roybal 1-3 0-0 2, Shannon May 3-7 0-0 6, Nataley Mondragon 2-10 1-2 5, Brette DeVaney 1-5 5-12 7, Anjalina Sanchez 2-5 3-6 7, Avette Sanchez 0-2 0-4 0. Totals 16-41 15-35 48.

Tatum 8 12 18 19 —57

Melrose 10 16 8 14 —48

3-Point Goals: T 3-17 (Coombes 0-2, Graham 1-5, Rice 0-2, Jimenez 1-3, Duran 1-5), M 1-12 (Martin 1-1, Roybal 0-2, Mondragon 0-4, DeVaney 0-4, Sanchez 0-1). Rebounds: T 29 (Duran 7), M 47 (May 11). Assists: T 4 (Graham 2), M 9 (Mondragon 4). Blocks: T 3, M 0. Steals: T 11, M 7. Total Fouls: T 25, M 31. Fouled Out: Rice, Martin, Roybal, Mondragon, DeVaney, Sanchez.

Pecos’ Omar Dominguez (12) and Issac Gonzales (22) celebrate as they leave with the championship trophy after winning in Class 2A boys. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

CLASS 2A BOYS (click here for bracket)

No. 1 PECOS 58, No. 3 NEWCOMB 37: Sometimes the stats tell the story in a glaring manner.

In Saturday’s boys Class 2A state basketball championship game at Dreamstyle Arena— the Pit, Newcomb missed its first 20 3-pointers.

Against a team as polished as two-defending state champion Pecos, that lack of production was going to be costly. And the Panthers took full advantage in a 58-37 win over the Skyhawks (29-3).

Pecos (27-3) brought its hectic, full-court, pressure defense, and it took a toll.

“We have played pressure defense,” Panthers coach Ira Harge Jr. said. “That’s our motto. We’re going to pressure for 32 minutes, get it up and down the floor. Get in their legs.”

He wasn’t quite sure if the press would work against the Skyhawks, who were playing in the first championship game in school history.

“All the things I’ve and heard about Newcomb, I wasn’t quite sure if they could handle pressure so we definitely wanted to try,” Harge said. “To be honest, we were nervous because we weren’t quite sure if we were as quick or if we could guard them in the full court. It worked for us and it worked well. It helped us move the ball and do what we needed to get done.”

What the Panthers basically needed to get done was hit some shots down low, which Xavier Padilla did well, finishing with 22 points. Teammate Ismael Villegas added a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

“The game plan was to go inside the best we could because Newcomb is so quick and so good at pressuring up,” Harge said. “So we tried to go over the top of them and keep the ball high so that was our strategy. We were able to do some of that and sometime we hit a few shots. We were just trying to stay in the paint and not shoot ourselves out of the game.”

It worked to the Panthers’ benefit that Newcomb wanted to run, as well.

“It was nice,” Padilla said. ‘We had a tougher time in the first round (against Magdalena) because they slowed the pace down a little bit and we couldn’t run. But when the other team wants to run with us, it’s on. We’re ready.”

Newcomb coach Dominique Richardson said his squad did what it needed to on one end, but the Skyhawks just couldn’t find the bucket on the other.

“They’re good,” he said of Pecos. “They made shots and we didn’t make shots. It’s a team that’s averaging close to 80 points and a game and you hold them to 58 points and 27 at half, we defended. We just didn’t make shots.”

— Glen Rosales

NEWCOMB (29-3): Deion Johnhat 4-14 2-2 10; Jared John 1-2 0-0 3; Kelkenny Watchman 2-9 0-4 4; Deontay Begay 0-8 0-0 0; Shannon Bitsilly 2-9 4-6 8; Deondre Begay 3-11 1-4 7; Tytus Brown 1-1 0-0 3; Chad Begay 1-1 0-1 2; Tracey Bryant 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 14-57 7-17 37

PECOS (27-3): Willie Trujillo 0-0 0-0 0; Omar Dominguez 1-10 2-2 5; Anthony Armijo 3-11 2-2 9; Keith Flores 0-0 0-0 0; Issac Gonzales 0-1 1-2 1; Devin Gonzales 0-1 0-0 0; Xavier Padilla 9-17 3-4 22; Juan Varela 4-5 0-0 8; Jodaiah Padilla 0-0 1-2 1; Ismael Villegas 6-12 0-0 12; Jacob Sandoval 0-0 0-0 0; Isaiah Sandoval 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 9-12 58

Newcomb 9 7 9 12 — 37

Pecos 16 11 16 15 — 58

3-point FGs: N 2-24 (Brown 1-1, John 1-2, Deontay Begay 0-8, Deondre Begay 0-3, Watchman 0-5, Johnhat 0-2, Bitsilly 0-2, Bryant 0-1); P 3-18 (X. Padilla 1-4, Armijo 1-5, Dominguez 1-6, I. Gonzales 0-1, D Gonzales 0-1, Varela 0-1). Rebounds: N 41 (Johnhat 11); P 49 (Villegas 11). Assists: N 8 (John 2, Watchman 2, C. Begay 2); P 13 (Armijo 4). Turnovers: N 19; P 21. Total Fouls: N 16; P 17.

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