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Gaxiola buzzer-beater caps Atrisco’s rally over Volcano Vista

Volcano VIsta’s Terrin Dickey (33) and Atrisco Heritage’s Malach Crawford battle for a loose ball during their game Wednesday. JIM THOMPSON/JOURNAL

Off the glass. Onto the rim. One bounce, two bounces.

The buzzer goes off. The ball falls through.

And yet another roof-raising comeback for the Atrisco Heritage Academy boys basketball team was complete.

Elijah Gaxiola’s 8-foot buzzer-beater capped a stirring rally for the Jaguars, who were down 15 late in the third quarter to visiting Volcano Vista, but emerged with an unlikely 51-50 District 1-5A victory on Wednesday night.

“That was my biggest shot,” Gaxiola said, smiling.

For the second time in a week, Atrisco Heritage overcame a huge deficit against a higher-ranked team. Last week, it was a 28-point hole to then-No. 1 Cleveland.

Wednesday, No. 2-ranked Volcano Vista led 47-32 with under 30 seconds left in the third quarter. And scored just three points the rest of the way.

“You can’t lose games the way we just lost this game,” a disheartened Volcano Vista coach Greg Brown said. “We know that it’s unacceptable. And we will fix it.”

The bigger picture is that No. 7-ranked Atrisco Heritage (14-6, 4-0) opened up a two-game lead in district, with the Hawks (16-4, 2-2) and Cibola (9-11, 2-2) having only four regular-season games to erase that margin.

Maybe most surprising of all, the Jaguars’ outstanding senior guard, Joziah Ramos, had little to do with this comeback.

Guard Isaiah Brooks did much of the heavy lifting in his stead. Brooks hit a shot off the glass with five minutes to go, shaving the Hawks’ lead to 47-38. Then he drilled a 3-pointer to make it 47-41.

Noah Cunningham of Volcano Vista answered at the other end for a 49-41 lead – the Hawks’ only field goal in a deliberately paced fourth quarter for them.

“It kind of felt like they started holding it a little early,” Atrisco Heritage coach Adrian Ortega said. “Typically, with (Greg’s) teams, it does work out because they are so disciplined.”

Brown said Volcano Vista’s super slow pace was not by design.

“Atrisco just stepped up,” he said. “For some reason, we got passive. I don’t know why. But they got aggressive, and the aggressive team will win.”

A hustle play by Gaxiola, rebounding the missed second free throw from teammate Tony Pacheco, allowed the Jags to close to 49-44 with 3:19 remaining. And Brooks’ three-point play – off a tough left-handed shot off the glass – with 2:03 left tightened things further.

Ramos eventually tied the game at 49 with a layup with 1:22 to go. Kaden Valdez of Volcano Vista made a free throw (he missed the second after a Jaguars timeout) with 38.6 seconds remaining.

Atrisco Heritage had the ball late with a chance to win. Ramos drove into the lane, dished to Malachi Crawford, but the ball deflected out of bounds off the Hawks with 0.9 seconds showing.

Brown waited for Atrisco Heritage to show him the inbounds formation from the baseline and burned his final two timeouts in succession to try and counter.

Finally, it was Ramos inbounding to Gaxiola, who banked it home and sent scores of Jaguars’ fans scurrying onto the court to celebrate.

“When it came off the glass,” Gaxiola said, “I just called ‘game.’ ”

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