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Jaguars extend winning streak to four

Rio Rancho’s Isaiah Chavez, left, looks to put up a shot over Atrisco Heritage’s Malachi Crawford in the first half of their matchup Friday evening at Rio Rancho High School. ROBERTO E. ROSALES

RIO RANCHO – It was Atrisco Heritage’s most familiar face who got the Jaguars into overtime.

But it was one of his cohorts who lifted the Jaguars to their most important win of this boys basketball season.

Dominic Rivas’ 3-pointer with 43 seconds left in OT proved to be the go-ahead – and, ultimately, the game-winning – basket for Class 5A’s two-time defending state champions, who played from behind most of the second half but left Rio Rancho High’s gym with a 49-46 victory.

“To be honest,” said Rivas, a senior guard, “I shot it, and I fell down, and I didn’t see the ball go in. I just saw everyone going crazy.”

And at the end of the opening week of District 1-5A action, it’s Atrisco Heritage that sits atop the standings. In this up-and-down season, the Jaguars have won four in a row – this, after dropping four of their previous five, a stretch that included surprising losses to Sandia and Manzano.

But Atrisco Heritage is gaining steam.

“Which is big for our team right now,” Jags coach Adrian Ortega said. “If we can get consistency from our guards, I like where we can go.”

Atrisco Heritage (12-6) is 2-0 in league, a game ahead of Cibola and Volcano Vista. The Cougars on Friday night authored one of the most surprising upsets of the season, beating the Hawks 39-37. Rio Rancho (10-8) and Cleveland are 0-1 in district.

Joziah Ramos of Atrisco Heritage – arguably Class 5A’s most clutch outside shooter – tied the game with 38.2 seconds remaining in regulation as he came off a screen and buried a long 3 from the top of the key.

Rio Rancho grabbed a 46-44 lead with 1:09 to go in OT. Christian Lucero secured a loose ball after a blocked shot and scored for a two-point lead. The Rams, in fact, were very deliberate as the overtime began. They held the ball for nearly the entire first three minutes of the four-minute overtime session without even making a move toward the basket.

Rivas’ huge make at the other end put Atrisco Heritage ahead for the first time since 11-10 early in the second quarter.

“Beautiful shot, beautiful stroke,” Ramos said. “So clutch. Great shot.”

Said Ortega: “Dom has been in a little bit of a slump, and for him to hit that 3, I think he’s gonna take off from here on out.”

Atrisco Heritage forced a Rio Rancho turnover on the next possession, with freshman Tony Pacheco tying up the Rams’ Lucero and the possession arrow favoring the Jaguars.

Ramos added two free throws with 1.3 seconds left for the final margin. He finished with a game-high 26 points. But Atrisco Heritage is finding ways to win right now. Two nights earlier, against Cibola, Ramos had just five points, but the Jaguars still beat the Cougars comfortably.

Miguel Baray had 14 points to pace Rio Rancho.

“This just boosts the kids’ confidence,” Ortega said. “At the other end of the spectrum, in this district, a loss in this district can put you (multiple) games behind.”

The Atrisco Heritage defense has been stellar in this four-game winning streak, giving up an average of 40.2 points per game.

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