A single word to describe this?
The Atrisco Heritage boys basketball team trailed No. 1 Cleveland by 28 points on Wednesday night, and was still down 27 in the second half of this crucial District 1-5A matchup.
But the Jags (13-6, 3-0) authored a stirring comeback for the ages, propelled by senior guard Joziah Ramos’ 46-point night, and the two-time defending Class 5A state champions sent a charge through their home fans, who rightfully screamed themselves silly as Atrisco Heritage handed the Storm a crushing 70-68 defeat.
Cleveland (17-2, 0-2) led 36-8 midway through the second quarter and 44-17 early in the third quarter.
“Never,” Jaguars coach Adrian Ortega said, asked if he had ever been part of such a game in his career. “Never. The only thing I can say is, these boys have the heart of a champion. A two-time state champion. It’s just unbelievable.”
In a 67-67 game, Ramos hit the go-ahead free throws with 13.7 seconds to go. But on the same play that put Ramos at the line, the Jaguars’ Colby Wade got hit with a technical foul.
With a chance to tie the game after Ramos’ two throws, Cleveland’s Evan Gonzales made just one out of two and Cleveland trailed 69-68.
With 5.7 seconds left, Wade banked in a free throw for the final margin; Gonzales’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer didn’t touch iron.
“Tale of two halves, two totally different halves,” Storm coach Sean Jimenez said.
Cleveland won the first half 42-17.
“The only thing we asked our kids at halftime was, make this game competitive,” Ortega said. “Don’t go out like this.”
Atrisco Heritage won the second half 53-26.
“I don’t think I have (been in a game like that),” Ramos said. “You don’t really know what’s going on until after, and you reflect. In the moment, you’re just playing.”
The Storm scored the game’s first 10 points. It led 10-0, 21-2 and 36-8. The Jaguars, who depend heavily on 3-pointers, were 0-for-8 from the arc in the first half.
“We couldn’t defend them,” Ortega said. “I really thought we were being bullied in the first half, because we let them.”
It was a 13-0 Atrisco Heritage run in the third quarter that shaved a 44-17 deficit to 44-30, with Ramos hitting back-to-back 3s to close out that run, and the second of those turned into a rare four-point play.
Cleveland was still up 14, however, at 63-49 with just over three minutes remaining. Ramos had 19 points in the fourth quarter and gave the Jaguars their first lead at 67-66 on a long straightaway 3 with 35.7 seconds left.
Atrisco Heritage’s defense rattled Cleveland throughout the second half.
“We did not take care of the ball,” Jimenez said. “I don’t think we got complacent, we just started turning the ball over.”