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Noce finds purpose coaching Rio Grande girls

Coach Ryan Noce presides over Tuesday’s practice for the Rio Grande girls, who recently ended a 65-game losing streak.
(Jim Thompson/Journal)

Sometimes, it’s all too easy to overlook that there exists another end to the spectrum.

Away from prying eyes that watch the Hobbs’ and the Piedra Vista’s of New Mexico high school girls basketball, there are numerous other programs, with equally noble, if less grand, goals.

Rio Grande is one of those schools.

The Ravens recently snapped a 65-game losing streak that lasted nearly three years. Which is just a small part of why they deserve your kind attention today.

The emotion, and the shaking voice of their new coach, Ryan Noce, is another.

“These girls,” Noce said, during an interview in which his voice quivered several times, “make you care about them.”

Noce, a former boys varsity coach at Del Norte, was hired just a couple of weeks before official practices began, which put a struggling program in an even tighter spot.

Rio Grande hadn’t won a game since Valentine’s Day of 2017, and now the Ravens’ players were going to have to adjust on the fly with a new coach, even though they knew Noce as a teacher.

So while other teams this time of year are dreaming of March and running down a certain ramp, the Ravens toil away on their daily, if modest, to-do-list.

“These kids are just so beaten down,” Noce said during a candid chat. “And they didn’t believe in themselves. They weren’t sure what they could do, and their expectations for themselves were minimal.”

Success is measured in small gains more often than not — although sometimes in larger steps, too, like the Jan. 18 victory over Albuquerque Academy.

“We’ve never talked about winning and losing, we talk about what success is and what each step looks like and how to get there,” Noce said.

“The win let them know that they can accomplish things,” he added. “That they can have that success. They don’t have to sell themselves short. The growth that these girls have had together, they’re amazing.”

When Noce was approached about coaching Rio Grande on short notice, he said he didn’t know about the team’s losing streak. And he didn’t much care. This job, he said, has become quite different from any he’s had in his career.

“I made a commitment that we’re gonna turn this program around one way or another, and we’re making steps to do that,” he said. “(But) it’ll be a tough few years as we build a culture and build a program and develop the players that we get.”

The following quote, from Noce, may help explain why coaches, many of whom receive such little financial compensation for their work, do what they do.

“They do things because they want to make me proud of them, and I coach them because I want them to be proud of me as a coach,” an emotional Noce said. “I don’t want to let these girls down. I’m just so excited and happy to be coaching them.”

IT’S STILL FOOTBALL SEASON … FOR SOME: Probably the most interesting boys basketball result from last week was this one:

Pecos 58, Clovis 54.

I saw it, and the first thing I thought was, it had to be Clovis’ JV. But indeed, the defending Class 2A state champs knocked off a 5A varsity program. And this, no question, was a fantastic win for the Panthers, who are ranked No. 1 in their class. Why would Clovis be scheduling a 2A school? And on the road? Wildcats coach Jaden Isler said Clovis had a team drop off the schedule in the late summer, and Pecos was the only team he could find with an opening. So, the Wildcats went on the road to play the Panthers.

But circling back to the football season reference, it must be said that Clovis was without its best player and leading scorer, 6-foot-6, 245-pound senior center Bryce Cabeldue.

Cabeldue was in Lawrence, Kansas, on an official football visit, and in fact he made a commitment to the Kansas Jayhawks and coach Les Miles last Sunday. New Mexico is still after Cabeldue as well, and the Lobos are free to recruit him until he signs with Kansas.

In fact, three very prominent football players from last season — who are deep in basketball season — all have made their football commitments in recent days.

In addition to Cabeldue, Los Lunas defensive end Bryce Santana, the Tigers’ second-leading basketball scorer, on Monday committed to UNM and new coach Danny Gonzales.

And then on Tuesday, Cleveland High running back Dorian Lewis, a guard for the Storm, committed to Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College. Lewis had recently been offered by the Lobos.

“My journey does not end here,” Lewis wrote in his tweet. One of his basketball teammates, Tre Watson, last weekend had an unofficial football visit to Nebraska.

THIS AND THAT: West Mesa guard Jazmin Cordova has signed with Trinidad (Colorado) State JC. … Due to issues with the Manzano gym, the Monarchs are having to juggle. Two boys home games with Santa Fe and Albuquerque High, which were supposed to be at Manzano this week, were switched to road games. … Very bizarre stat from Tuesday night: the St. Pius boys nailed seven 3-pointers against Los Lunas, but did not even reach 30 points as a team for the entire game in a 31-28 loss.

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