Go ahead and try to poke holes in the top-ranked Eldorado boys basketball team.
You’ll probably find it’s easier said than done.
Not flashy enough?
“That’s what everyone says about us, that we don’t have one guy taking over or one guy scoring 20 points,” said Eagles coach Roy Sanchez. “I don’t get that. We have a lot of players who can score. What’s wrong with that?”
Tuesday night’s 45-34 home win over No. 2 Manzano, one that put the Eagles (22-3, 6-1) within a game of clinching the District 5-5A regular-season title, didn’t do much to alter that perception.
So what, say the players and coaches.
“Just playing our game,” said senior Chris Strong. “We have to stick to playing our style and not worry about anything else.”
Whatever the criticism, Sanchez & Co. have heard it all.
Strong helped silence some of those critics with a critical put-back in the final minute of the third quarter. The offensive rebound and ensuing layup gave Eldorado a 27-26 lead with 30 seconds left.
It proved to be the signature moment of a 20-5 Eagles run.
Up to that point Manzano (20-6, 6-2) controlled the game with patience at the offensive end and stingy defense at the other. The Monarchs held Eldorado to 16 points in the first two quarters, forcing one of the state’s most consistent offenses into several hurried and awkward shots.
What kept the Eagles in it was a little defense of their own. Guard Javier Lane was assigned to shadow Manzano sharpshooter Kyle Lantz. Lantz finished with six points — seven below his team-leading average.
“Other guys did a good job on him, too, but the credit for most of it goes to Javier,” Sanchez said. “Manzano actually came out trying to set the pace by slowing it to a crawl. We’ll play that way if we have to, and tonight we did.”
Sophomore Cameron Glasrud jolted Eldorado’s offense to life in the second half. He hit a 3-pointer to open the third quarter as the Eagles used a 9-4 run to tie it at 25.
Strong’s bucket a few minutes later gave Eldorado the lead for good.
“We like that we only gave up (34) points, but we like that we got the win more,” Strong said. “This was a big game for us. We had to have it.”
One of Eldorado’s three losses came to Manzano on Jan. 28. The Monarchs entered Tuesday’s game as 5A’s hottest team, having won 16 of 17 to get within one game of winning the 5-5A title.
Barring a Rio Grande upset of Eldorado on Saturday, the Monarchs will head into next week’s district tournament as the No. 2 seed behind Eldorado and in front of Highland.
It also means that another encounter with the Eagles in the 5-5A championship game will likely determine the overall top seed for the Class 5A state tournament.
“I told everyone that we’ll see these guys two more times,” Sanchez said, referring to a rematch with Manzano in the district and state tournaments. “You could probably say the same thing about (third-ranked) Highland, too. We’re not done with either team yet.”