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ALBUQUERQUE HIGH BULLDOGS
Coach: Doug Dorame (12th year)
Last season: 12-16
Key players: Tiara Pendleton, 5-9, sr., FW; Vanessa Baca, 5-8, jr., FW; Brianna Cole, 5-4, jr., SG; MC Curtis, 5-11, jr., P.
Outlook: The Bulldogs are widely expected to be one of 5A’s surprise groups, as they return all five starters. Plus, they’ve got an incoming 6-footer in freshman Leilani Love who many believe will be an extremely important addition. Pendleton led AHS in scoring last season. Bulldogs hope to challenge Sandia in District 5-5A.
ATRISCO HERITAGE ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Joe Montoya (10th year)
Last season: 6-19
Key players: Nezhoni Gonzales, 5-7, sr., SG; Tavonya Brown, 5-9, sr., FW; Natalia Randell, 5-7, soph., FW/G; Anaise Perez, 5-4, soph., SG.
Outlook: The Jaguars will be far more experienced than they were a season ago, giving Montoya reason to believe Atrisco Heritage will be much more competitive in 2019-20. It’ll be a defensive-minded team with not much size, but with decent balance and with several shooters.
Coach: Raymond Aragon (1st year)
Last season: 15-13; lost to Los Lunas in 4A first round
Key players: Juliana Aragon, 5-6, soph., G; Gabby O’Hara, 5-10, fresh., FW/G; Lexi Baca, 5-11, sr., P; Lakresha Sanchez, 5-2, sr., G; Dominique Dominguez, 5-7, sr., FW.
Outlook: Bernalillo took a huge step forward with its playoff bid last season, and the Spartans return a fantastic player in Aragon. O’Hara will add some offensive balance and alleviate some of the scoring pressure on Aragon, who attracts so much defensive attention. A major goal for Bernalillo is getting itself a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
BOSQUE SCHOOL BOBCATS
Coach: Mike Huston (1st year)
Last season: 11-15
Key players: Katia Chavez, 5-5, soph., combo G; Savanna Duran, 5-7, sr., G; Abby Schneider, 5-7, jr., FW; Ashley Green, 5-9, sr., FW.
Outlook: Huston, the former Eldorado girls coach, is back as he takes over the Bobcats, but he didn’t get a full offseason with Bosque. Chavez led this team in scoring last season and is by far the best player on this roster. Expect some of the same things Huston did at Eldorado, like extending the floor, and plenty of pressure, but it’ll take some time.
Coach: Lori Mabrey (15th year)
Last season: 5-20
Key players: Adamari Waddell, 5-10, sr., SG; Azia Himeur, 5-8, jr., SG; Isabel Montoya, 5-6, sr., PG; Sophie Sena, 5-6, jr., utility; Grace Salmon, 5-5, jr., G.
Outlook: Most everyone, including the Cougars, is expecting a bounce-back type of season with a fairly experienced team. Waddell is healthy after missing time last season with a shoulder injury, and she can take over games, Mabrey said. Montoya recently signed with Pepperdine; Himeur can light it up from beyond the arc. This is perhaps the second-best team in District 1-5A behind Volcano Vista.
Coach: Susan Kubala (6th year)
Last season: 19-11; lost to Farmington in 5A first round
Key players: Alexa Madueno, 5-9, jr., G; Jordan Barnard, 5-10, sr., FW; Isabelle Valdez, 5-10, jr., FW; Vanessa Rendon, 5-7, soph., G; Skyla Lillard, 5-9, sr., P.
Outlook: Cleveland graduated half a dozen seniors, leaving the Storm with a young group in terms of varsity experience. Lillard is one of the returners; she had 23 in a playoff loss to Farmington last season, and she is indicitive of a scoring-by-committee approach that Kubala thinks Cleveland will have to have. Team chemistry is a plus.
COTTONWOOD CLASSICAL PREP COYOTES
Coach: Sam Gavaldon (4th year)
Last season: 12-14
Key players: Samantha Long, 5-6, fresh., combo G; Natalia Torrez, 5-6, soph., PG; Alicia Padilla, 5-8, sr., P; Avery Urrea, 5-4, fresh., combo G.
Outlook: With only two seniors, Cottonwood — which has three starters back — is going to have an extremely young roster on the floor. And they’re also going to be quite small, so that means up tempo all the time. The hope is to try and find a way to qualify for state in March.
Coach: Leroy Barela (1st year)
Last season: 9-17
Key players: Cece Barela, 5-6, jr., combo G; Laney Lucero, 5-5, sr., combo G; Rachel Williams, 5-7, sr., combo G; Presley Tyler, 5-6, sr., W; Ashton Armenta, 5-8, sr., P; Ella Dion, soph., 5-2, PG.
Outlook: This should certainly be one of 5A’s most interesting teams, as Barela, the former Robertson head coach, takes over the program. His daughter Cece was part of West Mesa’s championship group last March, and she is one of many talented guards on this team, including Williams, Lucero and Tyler. Transfer Hayley Valencia from Hope Christian won’t be varsity eligibile, however, until next year.
Coach: Lonnie Neal (5th year)
Last season: 20-7; lost to Española Valley in 4A quarterfinals
Key players: Cailee Crawford, 6-1, jr., G; Deniece Ryan, 5-2, soph., PG; Alicia Trujillo, 5-4, jr., SG; Kylie Crooke, 5-4, jr., SG; Desiree Bachicha, 5-5, jr., G.
Outlook: Six of the Hornets’ top eight players return, including Crawford, one of the state’s best. One thing: Neal hopes to find someone other than Crawford to step up and lead this team in crucial moments. Having said that, Highland is going to be awfully strong. The Hornets are deep and talented, with multiple good shooters, and solid defensively. Certainly a group that can win a blue trophy.
HOPE CHRISTIAN HUSKIES
Coach: David Medina (1st year)
Last season: 16-14; lost to Los Lunas in 4A quarterfinals
Key players: Savanna Lewis, 6-1, jr., FW; Savi Rael, 5-3, sr., PG; Laura Chavez, 5-3, sr., combo G.
Outlook: No team in the metro area is more in flux than the Huskies, who have a new head coach (Medina was at Del Norte 11 seasons before changing schools) and plenty of new faces after quite a few players transferred out and scattered around the area. Except for Lewis, there is not much varsity game experience available to Medina. Young but talented, is how he describes this team.
LA CUEVA BEARS
Coach: Robert Perea (8th year)
Last season: 18-8; lost to Rio Rancho in 5A first round
Key players: Kaya Ingram, 5-8, sr., PG; Rylie Ottmann, 5-6, soph., combo G; Jerzie Jones, 5-5, soph., G; Carolina Romero, 5-7, soph., SG; Teona Savic, 5-7, soph., FW.
Outlook: The Bears do not have an overly big roster, but that might be the only knock against La Cueva, which figures to be one of 5A’s best. Ingram has signed with Cornell, and she’s surrounded by extremely talented 10th graders like Romero (the team’s best shooter), Ottmann and Savic. Rebounding will likely be an ongoing concern for Perea, whose team will be pressuring the basketball like crazy.
Coach: Roger Williams (5th year)
Last season: 12-13
Key players: Cameron Cole, 5-11, sr., W; Mary Jane Weaver, 5-10, jr., FW; Mya Williams, 5-5, sr., combo G; Alexandra Chavez, 5-7, sr., W.
Outlook: Manzano has slowly been trying to work itself into the playoff conversation the last couple of years; this might be the season the Monarchs find their way into the field. This team has decent size with Cole and Weaver, and Williams led the team in scoring last season and she is this team’s floor general and catalyst. On the whole, a team with more skill and athleticism than a year ago.
RIO RANCHO RAMS
Coach: Scott Peterson (5th year)
Last season: 18-12; lost to Hobbs in 5A quarterfinals
Key players: Hannah Dietz, 5-11, sr., P; Jillian Rodriguez, 5-6, sr., G; Michaela Meyer, 5-6, sr., SG; Kennedy Block, 5-9, sr., P.
Outlook: The Rams are rebuiding to a degree this season, as only one starter returns from last season. “We’re starting fresh again, and I’m really excited,” Peterson said. Rio Rancho will hope to do as it has done during Peterson’s time at Rio Rancho, and that is find scoring from the backcourt. Which won’t be easy without a true standout player. Rams not overly big, either.
Coach: Lee Kettig (5th year)
Last season: 19-7; lost to Mayfield in 5A first round
Key players: Viane Cumber, 5-10, jr., G; Melina Luna, 5-5, jr., G; Marisa Griego, 5-4, jr., G; Mia Roy, 5-6, sr., G.
Outlook: Sandia has four starters back from a team that won 19 games, including the outstanding Cumber, so the Matadors and Kettig understandably have high expectations this season. It’s not a big team, so Sandia will have plenty of four- and five-guard lineups, but they are veteran guards and that’s the important thing to remember. Matadors won their district last season.
SANDIA PREP SUNDEVILS
Coach: Jerome Romero (2nd year)
Last season: 16-12; lost to Tularosa in 3A first round
Key players: Samantha Jeffries, 5-9, sr., FW; Austin Tackman, 5-5, sr., PG; Destiny Archibald, 5-6, jr., G; MacKenzie Rubin, 5-10, sr., P.
Outlook: Not only does Romero think the Sundevils win their district, but he believes Sandia Prep will win MULTIPLE games in the state tournament because of its experience. This is a veteran group, led by Jeffries who led the team in scoring (14 a game) and rebounding last season.
Coach: Joe Tafoya (3rd year)
Last season: 15-12
Key players: Milli Vigil, 5-5, jr., PG; Chawntell Martinez, 5-6, sr., FW; Destiny Maez, 5-5, sr., G; Gillian Roybal, 5-6, jr., G; Samantha Lopez-Burton, 5-7, sr., FW.
Outlook: It stung the Vikings last season to miss the playoffs, having won 15 games, but all five starters return, so Valley hopes to rectify that this season. Vigil led this team in scoring last season, but the Vikings have several players who’ll be able to fill the bucket, and Tafoya labeled this “the best shooting team I’ve had” at Valley. This could be a team that could finish second to Highland in their district.
VOLCANO VISTA HAWKS
Coach: Lisa Villareal (12th year)
Last season: 22-6; lost to Carlsbad in overtime in 5A quarterfinals
Key players: Jaelyn Bates, 5-4, soph., G; Natalia Chavez, 5-10, soph., G; Giannah Aragon, 5-7, jr., G; Kennedy Brown, 5-4, soph., G; Angelyn Aranda, 6-0, soph., C.
Outlook: You will find plenty of takers on Volcano Vista being 5A’s best team as the 2019-20 season begins. Four starters — led by Bates and Chavez, now sophomores — return from that 22-win team, and this team has pretty much all the pieces to get to the season’s final game. They’re a year older and a year smarter, with quite possibly 5A’s most gifted backcourt. A very high ceiling exists for the Hawks.
WEST MESA MUSTANGS
Coach: Manny Otero (6th year)
Last season: 28-3; Class 5A state champions
Key players: Emily Burk, 5-4, sr., PG; Jazmin Cordova, 5-9, sr., G/FW; Monique Jackson, 5-5, jr., SG; Crystal Aspaas, 5-10, sr., P; Alicia Varoz, 5-3, sr., G.
Outlook: For the first time in a few years, the Mustangs open a season as more hunter than target. They may not quite be as under the radar as Otero hopes, but they’re still probably no better than a third pick in their own district, behind Piedra Vista and La Cueva. Burk, a New Mexico Highlands signee, and Cordova, are both four-year starters; Burk will likely emerge as the top scorer on this team.