RIO RANCHO – The last time the boys basketball teams from Cleveland and Atrisco Heritage shared a floor, the Storm had a 27-point lead in the second half. And lost.
Friday night, this 27-point lead in the second half never was in jeopardy.
“We had to get revenge,” junior guard Nate Hasberry said.
No. 5-ranked Cleveland shot at least 50 percent from the field in all four quarters, the Storm limited Jaguars guard Joziah Ramos to a quiet 14 points, and Cleveland kept alive its hope for a District 1-5A regular-season title with a convincing 73-53 victory over No. 3 Atrisco Heritage.
“We couldn’t wait to play them again,” said Storm senior forward Tre Watson, who had a game-best 23 points. “We knew the last time we let one get loose. (Tonight), we knew when our foot was on the gas, we had to keep it there.”
Cleveland (21-3, 3-3 in 1-5A) shot 57.4% from the field (27 of 47), and forced Atrisco Heritage into 20 turnovers.
The Storm on Friday never trailed and steadily put distance between itself and the Jaguars.
“We took care of the ball, we forced turnovers so we got some easy transition buckets, and we were taking good, quality shots,” Cleveland coach Sean Jimenez said. “At Atrisco the last time, we had that big lead, but then we started taking some bad shots, and started turning it over.”
The lead was 16-11 after the first quarter Friday, and Cleveland extended to a 35-24 by halftime.
But it was the first five minutes of the third quarter that finished off the Jaguars.
Cleveland went on an 18-3 run to open the second half, led 53-27, and the Storm made certain not to give Atrisco Heritage an ounce of breathing room this time.
“Coach told us to put the hammer down on them, keep pushing it,” Hasberry said.
The Jaguars (15-8, 5-2) had a three-game lead in the district just two weeks ago.
But there are four teams – Cleveland, Atrisco Heritage, Volcano Vista (17-5, 3-3) and Rio Rancho (13-11, 3-3) – that could still emerge as the top seed for the upcoming district tournament as the season enters its final week.
“I’ll just say, it wasn’t our night tonight,” Jaguars coach Adrian Ortega said. “Give Cleveland all the credit in the world. We’ll learn from this and we’ll be ready next week.”
However, the Jaguars, despite a tough week in which they lost both games, still control their fate. They’ll close the regular season next Friday at Volcano Vista.
Ramos, who scored 46 points in the last game against Cleveland, spearheading an epic comeback victory, not only didn’t make a 3-pointer on Friday, he didn’t even attempt one, so closely was Cleveland guarding him.
“We knew if we ran him off the line and made somebody else try to beat us, the game would go a lot better,” Watson said.
Watson had tremendous support from Aidan Moreno, who had 16 points (and was 6 of 9 from the floor) in an outstanding effort, and (especially) the 6-foot-1 Hasberry, who was 10 of 12 from the floor and finished with 22 points.
“He balled out tonight,” Watson said. “That’s my boy.”