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Today’s lead item will be as much of a solicitation of public opinion as anything else.
What are the three best boys basketball rivalries right now in Class 5A? (Send your responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @JamesDYodice on Twitter). They must both be 5A programs in order to qualify.
In light of the most recent Cleveland-Volcano Vista game, a contest the Storm won 64-60 in overtime, I wanted to delve into just how close the District 1-5A rivals had been the last two seasons. In seven meetings since January 2019, the two have been separated by a mere eight points. Which is amazing. There have been three one-point games and two overtime games, and none decided by more than six points.
In short, this has rapidly become the must-see rivalry game in 5A in the metro area. Even ahead of La Cueva-Eldorado, which is saying something because the Bears and Eagles have been atop that perch for a good long while. And may be again, who knows.
At any rate, I tweeted something the other day that got a couple of fans in Santa Fe in a bit of a tizzy.
I wrote that I believed that Cleveland-Volcano Vista, La Cueva-Eldorado and Clovis-Hobbs were the three best current 5A rivalry games – I’m not ranking them in any particular order – in boys basketball.
A couple of Santa Fe followers quickly descended to argue that Capital-Santa Fe had to be on that list. (Their methods in trying to convey this to me was slightly more … shall we say, colorful, than I just described, but they certainly were passionate that I was wrong and that I was slighting the Jags-Demons.)
OK, fine. I’m willing to be reasonable. Let’s just give everyone a voice today. And circling back to my second sentence, how do we select the three?
I will tell you first the factors that I believe comprise a great rivalry, and this may be a sticking point for some since their criteria may differ from mine.
First, examine the quality of the programs, and of the basketball being played. Second, the importance of the games when they meet in the regular season. Third, is there postseason history between them?
Crowd/fan interest is certainly part of the equation, too, but to me, it’s not as vital as those other three bullet points. Anyone who tries to frame their choice using only crowd size, well, let’s just say a car requires four good tires for tread, not just one.
My three choices check all the boxes – even if the Cleveland-VV rivalry is still so young. And it is young. But they’ve already met in countless huge games, including multiple district tournament finals, and they’ve played in the state tournament. Ditto for La Cueva-Eldorado, who clashed for a state title in 2012 and who are almost always terrific theater no matter the venue.
Hobbs and Clovis are separated by 130 miles, so their inclusion would at a glance appear to be out of place on my list. But know that the Eagles and Wildcats have a tremendously fierce rivalry. As strong as any in the state – and these two have abundant, decades-long history.
Not only that, Hobbs and Clovis have played each other in three state finals. The most recent, in 2008, drew a bigger crowd to the Pit than even Atrisco Heritage-Santa Fe did last year, or that Eldorado-La Cueva final in 2012. One could argue that Hobbs-Clovis could, or should, be No. 1 on any list. (Hobbs-Albuquerque High is an all-time great rivalry, not a current one. They rarely meet.)
For the basketball fans in Santa Fe, this is my reasoning for those of you who insist you’re unfairly being slighted:
The Demons and Capital have never met in the state tournament. In fact, they have only played one time in a district tournament final, and that was last year. (This information from New Mexico basketball historian Chuck Ferris.) Moreover, for 22 of the last 32 years, since Capital opened in 1988, the Jaguars and Santa Fe have not even been in the same classification. All contribute to why their rivalry – which admittedly is quite strong – did not crack my 5A-only top three.
So, with all of that said, I turn the floor over to you. Maybe your choice mirrors one of the rivalries on my list. Maybe it’s another one altogether. No matter.
Depending on the response, I may revisit this topic briefly in next week’s column.
RESCHEDULE: The hugely important Cibola-Volcano Vista girls matchup, first postponed Tuesday, was pushed back again Wednesday, apparently because of another function at Cibola on Wednesday night (not sports related) that was supposed to attract several hundred students.
The game has been set for the final night of the regular season, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. – and the date of the reschedule puts the Cougars in a terrible spot, as senior point guard Isabel Montoya is slated to be visiting Pepperdine that day.
Cibola is a game behind Volcano Vista in the District 1-5A standings, and if those positions hold until Feb. 22, Volcano Vista will have a terrific advantage as Cibola would need a victory to force a playoff game for top seed in the 1-5A tournament.
THIS AND THAT: The poor weather earlier this week led to the cancellation of one of the week’s most anticipated games, the undefeated Magdalena boys at No. 1 Pecos in Class 2A. It won’t be rescheduled. … There are two more members of the 1,000-point club in New Mexico: guard Lanae Billy of Piedra Vista (who is just a sophomore, meaning she should easily surpass 2,000 before she’s through in Farmington), and forward Collin Evans of Hope Christian, who topped that barrier in his 31-point effort in a Huskies win over Highland last week.