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District races in basketball are shaping up

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

If January is nearing its end, that can only mean that high school basketball is heading into that all-important second season called district play.

Pecos High School’s Ismael Villegas, center, drives to the basket between Santa Fe High’s Cruz Martinez, left, and Fedonta “J.B.” White, right, during a game at the Al Armendariz Tournament at Capital High School last month. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal

Area teams have had an intriguing pre-district, with some notable success stories. But that can all fall apart or surprise teams can blossom as everybody races for a coveted playoff berth.

Here’s a look at various races, with a bit of handicapping thrown in for good measure.

Boys

DISTRICT 5-5A: This is really a two-horse race between Capital and Santa Fe High, ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the NMOT coaches poll. The two area teams have already split home-and-home games in their own tournaments, and will likely meet three and maybe four more times before the state tournament as there is every likelihood they will split their district matchups, as well, setting up a tie-breaking game to determine the top seed for the district tournament. And that almost certainly will set up yet another meeting for the tournament championship. Expect both squads to have top-eight seeds for the state tourney. And how fun would a seventh meeting between the city rivals be coming in the playoffs? Getting a chance to see the Demons’ star Fedonta “J.B.” White and the Jaguars’ long-range sharpshooter Antonio “T.J.” Sanchez battle will be a treat.

DISTRICT 2-4A: Taos has established itself as the clear leader in this district and Abdul Khweis is developing into one of the state’s top scorers. But the Tigers can be challenged by a never-quit Española Valley squad.

DISTRICT 2-3A: A three-headed monster sits atop the district as No. 5 St. Michael’s, No. 3 Robertson and West Las Vegas are all capable of winning it. Fresh off a bruising non-district slate in which they rarely faced programs of similar size, the nod here goes to the Horsemen. Loaded with a deep, talented and experienced roster, and blessed with the league’s top player in Thomas Wood, St. Mike’s will be a tough opponent every game. The Cardinals and Dons have not been tested nearly as frequently, but have built up confidence against lesser opponents. No. 8 Santa Fe Indian School, however, has proven it can beat anybody at home. It’s just road trips that present issues.

DISTRICT 7-2A: Make no mistake, top-ranked Pecos is for real. Already three-time defending state champions, the Panthers have their sights set on another one. And while Santa Rosa and Texico might provide a little competition during district, the senior triumvirate of post Xavier Padilla, wing Ismael Villegas and point guard Anthony Armijo are simply too much for anyone in the district to curtail.

DISTRICT 2-5A: Talk about wide-open districts, this is it. Escalante was the only team to finish the pre-district schedule at .500 or above and they have to be considered the favorites. But Mora has played a rugged schedule, as has Mesa Vista, and both could be there at the end.

DISTRICT 2-2A: This is going to be one of those “who-wants-it” districts as all five members struggled early. McCurdy and Monte del Sol, however, are the clear front runners here.

Girls

DISTRICT 2-5A: Both Capital and Santa Fe are going to be chasing district favorite Sandia, but each should have a solid chance at a runner-up slot behind the Matadors. The Jaguars boast a strong duo in Rebecca Sorensen and Ethena Silva, who are each averaging in double-digit scoring while grabbing more than eight rebounds a game.

The ability of Pojoaque Valley’s Miquela Martinez to drive to the basket makes the Elkettes one of the favorites in District 2-4A. (Courtesy of Roman Martinez Jr.)

DISTRICT 2-4A: This is going to be a fun district to watch and will likely go down to the final game, if not beyond, before a champ is crowned. No. 6 Pojoaque Valley, behind Ashten Martinez and Michaela Martinez, has the inside-outside threats that will cause opponents fits. No. 8 Española Valley is too good to count, however, despite a fairly young roster with just two seniors. And with four players standing 6 feet or above, Los Alamos is aptly named the Hilltoppers, and have been on a roll, winning seven straight entering a game late Saturday against La Cueva.

DISTRICT 2-3A: It’s never safe to count out No. 3 Santa Fe Indian School, and the dual threats of Cameron Conners and Hunter Garcia, despite an early district stumble to No. 10 Robertson. No. 5 West Las Vegas has been up and down, but expect the Dons, Cardinals and Braves to be battling to the end, with the possibility of St. Michael’s entering the mix.

DISTRICT 7-2A: No. 3 Pecos is easily the class of the district and, powered by Trinity Herrera and Alexis Gonzales, should face few obstacles on the way to the state tournament.

DISTRICT 2-5A: Top-ranked Peñasco should rampage through the district with probably the best player in the classification in post Carly Gonzales, as well as equally tough wing Adrianna Tafoya. Escalante and Mesa Vista should be contending for the runner-up slot.

DISTRICT 2-2A: The district is for Academy for Technology and the Classics to lose. But it is almost certainly not going to happen as the Phoenix have a top coach in Ron Drake, and strong scorers in Perla Miramontes and Charli Koseoglu.

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