On the eve of the announcement of the boys state tournament brackets, there was much to dissect around the metro area.
The short version was this:
La Cueva, Atrisco Heritage, Highland and Bosque School all won boys district tournament basketball championships on Saturday night.
LA CUEVA 63, ELDORADO 50: The Bears won the game. Decisively.
Eldorado lost the game – and its head coach for the first round of the playoffs.
The Bears on Saturday night won the District 2-5A tournament championship, whipping the visiting Eagles in a contentious game between heated rivals that wasn’t really as close as the final score would lead you to believe.
La Cueva (17-8) had four players in double figures, and Exodus Ayers (16), Tristan Moore (15), Micah Cooper (14) and Derek Aeilts (12) combined for all but six of La Cueva’s points.
“This week, honestly, leading up to this game, the kids were doing a good job of hitting shots in practice, and some of the kids were putting on a clinic,” La Cueva coach Frank Castillo said.
That was certainly true in a white-hot first quarter.
The Bears were 8-of-10 from the floor in the opening eight minutes, and made all five of their 3-point attempts. Ayers had eight points, Cooper seven in that first quarter.
“We just had the ultimate confidence coming into this,” said Aeilts. “(And) we’re a very unselfish team. We want everyone to eat.”
Still, Eldorado hung around on a poor shooting night for the Eagles, and on a night when La Cueva contested, or attempted to contest, just about every Eldorado shot.
Ayers banked home a 35-footer at the first-half buzzer for a 33-23 lead.
Aeilts buried an early 3 in the third quarter as La Cueva began to pull away – and tempers began to flare.
By the time the fourth quarter started, the Bears were leading comfortably, 52-33, and then things got ugly.
The Eagles were hit with four technical fouls in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter – including two on head coach Roy Sanchez, who was ejected. He’ll be unable to coach Eldorado in the first round of state next Saturday as a result. It was a very hard foul by Ayers, on the Eagles’ Elijah Parham that knocked him hard to the floor, that led to the first technical, on Parham.
Sanchez later said he was thinking about whether he would appeal.
Jayvon Jefferson had 14 points for Eldorado. Deraje Agbaosi was held to 10 points as the Bears did a solid job preventing either from hurting them on the offensive glass. La Cueva post Ja’Shon Lowery was injured and did not play.
La Cueva’s biggest lead was 60-35.
– James Yodice
ATRISCO HERITAGE 62, CLEVELAND 49: At Atrisco Heritage, the two-time defending state champion Jaguars (17-8) rode a big second quarter to a double-digit win over the Storm (24-4) in the District 1-5A tournament final.
Isaiah Brooks had 24 points to lead the Jaguars. Joziah Ramos added 17, and Dominic Rivas scored 12 on four 3s. Two of them came in that pivotal second quarter.
“We played really well defensively, but I think the special thing that gets overlooked with this team is that they are experienced players,” Jaguars coach Adrian Ortega said.
Cleveland had soundly won the most recent meeting with the Jaguars, in Rio Rancho.
HIGHLAND 48, VALLEY 47: At Valley, the third-seeded Hornets (18-10) completed a fantastic week in the District 6-4A tournament. Highland won four games in six days, culminating with this upset of the top-ranked Vikings (18-7).
Sophomore post Jose Murillo had 23 points for Highland. On Friday he had 26 points and 18 rebounds in a win at No. 2 seed Hope Christian.
Erasmo Carreon hit two big free throws in the final minute for the Hornets as they tried to protect a lead. Fifth-ranked Highland has won seven in a row headed into the playoffs.
Valley went just 2 of 8 from the stripe.
LOS LUNAS 60, VALENCIA 57 (2 OT): In Los Lunas, junior forward Tyler Kiehne’s three-point play in the final minute of the second overtime put the Tigers (17-10) in front 58-57 as they held off their crosstown rivals, the Jaguars (17-12), in the District 5-4A title game.
BOSQUE SCHOOL 63, SANDIA PREP 52: At Sandia Prep, the Bobcats (22-4) avenged two regular-season district losses to the top-rated Sundevils (20-7) in 5-3A final. Elijah Davidson had 33 points for Bosque School.
Cameron Goeldner of the Valencia County News-Bulletin contributed to this story.