If this is a harbinger of things to come in District 6-4A boys basketball, what a glorious few weeks are ahead.
Although Class 4A’s third-ranked Highland surrendered a 15-point lead in the second half, the Hornets held visiting Hope Christian without a point over the final 3 minutes and 42 seconds and survived in a 50-47 district-opening win over the second-ranked Huskies on Tuesday night.
“It’s gonna be like this every single game the next five weeks,” Highland coach Justin Woody said.
The game featured eight ties and 11 lead changes.
The last of the 11 was a layup from Hornets sophomore big man Jose Murillo, with 1:40 left for a 48-47 lead. Erasmo Carreon added two free throws for Highland (9-5) with just under 10 seconds remaining.
But those free throws were only made possible because of teammate Raul Marquez, who rebounded a missed front end of a 1-and-1 from Murillo with 16 seconds left. Carreon was fouled a couple of seconds later.
“It’s the little things,” Huskies coach Jim Murphy said. “We missed a box out, we turned the ball over (on an) inbounds … we have to be sharper. These games are gonna be so tight and every play is gonna be important.”
Hope Christian’s Grant Ulibarri missed a 35-footer with 2 seconds left for Hope Christian (8-8) that could have forced overtime.
The Huskies led the game 27-26 after Isaac Valenzuela’s 3-pointer in the third quarter.
But Highland went on a 16-0 run over the next 3½ minutes, punctuated by the hot shooting of Marquez, who buried three 3-pointers in that stretch, with Carreon adding another trey. The last of the 16 points had the Highland crowd engaged, as a blocked shot at one end by Murillo led to a layup at the other end by Josh Barraza for a 42-27 lead with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
But Hope Christian responded in kind. The Huskies went on a 17-2 run to tie the game at 44 midway through the fourth quarter.
Jaden Spencer hit a couple of 3s right in front of his bench to pull even — and moments later, Sean Martinez added a 3 as the Huskies led 47-46 with 3:42 left.
“We got up and kind of relaxed a little bit,” Woody said. “Hope made some really good plays.”
Marquez, Carreon and Tommy Huynh each scored 11 points for Highland, and the five starters were the Hornets’ only scorers. Their four starting guards — Huynh, Marquez, Barraza and Carreon — all are three-year starters and Highland’s chances in March are heavily dependent on them.
“They’ve got a lot of experience … and being in these close games is only going to help us,” Woody said.
Martinez had 14 points to lead Hope Christian.
Also in 6-4A on Tuesday night, Del Norte defeated Albuquerque Academy 74-66, and No. 1-ranked Valley went on the road and beat Bernalillo 50-44.