When Sandia boys basketball coach Danny Brown looks at Atrisco Heritage Academy, he sees the same formula that propelled the Jaguars to state championships in 2018 and 2019.
“They still shoot it like they shoot it, like they always have,” Brown said as his fifth-seeded Matadors prepared to visit No. 4 Atrisco Heritage at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 5A quarterfinals. “The best thing about them is they defend really hard. That’s the thing that makes me nervous.”
Sandia hopes its length — like 6-foot-5 junior Sean Johnson, who leads the team in scoring at 23 points a game — can perhaps disrupt the Jaguars’ efficient perimeter-oriented offense.
“We have to make sure that we make them uncomfortable,” Brown said. “However we can do that.”
No. 1 Cleveland, 5A’s quickest, most athletic team, also is home Tuesday as the Storm entertains No. 8 Santa Fe, which features Demons senior guard Cruz Martinez.
A pair of district champions, No. 6 Los Lunas and No. 3 Las Cruces, the defending state champion, square off down south. Junior guard Deuce Benjamin led 5A in both scoring (27.6 ppg) and assists (5.8 apg) and was possibly 5A’s best player this spring for the unbeaten Bulldawgs (12-0).
“We have a very difficult matchup playing Los Lunas,” Las Cruces coach William Benjamin said. This matchup has the Bulldawgs, averaging over 70 points a game, against a Los Lunas defense that surrendered just over 45 points a game.
Roswell advanced to the semifinals when Carlsbad on Monday announced that one of its players had a positive COVID-19 test, forcing the Cavemen to prematurely end their season. The Coyotes play Las Cruces or Los Lunas in Thursday’s semifinals.
CLASS 4A: Del Norte, seeded No. 1, is chasing what would be the school’s most significant team state title in at least 20 years as the Knights — led by 4A’s leading scorer, dynamic sophomore guard Shane Douma-Sanchez (26.4 ppg) — play host to No. 8 Highland at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Hornets’ talented big man, 6-9 junior Jose Murillo, averaged 20 points and 15.5 rebounds this season.
No. 6 Bernalillo travels to No. 3 Gallup on Tuesday.
Apparently, not everyone is aware that there are more than two undefeated teams in the Class 5A bracket.
No. 3 seed Centennial (12-0) is the overlooked and sometimes forgotten team, with so much focus on No. 1 Hobbs and No. 2 Volcano Vista.
“Shoot, man, we’re just lucky to be playing at this point,” Centennial coach Louie Laborin said.
Centennial plays host to No. 6 Eldorado at 7 p.m. Tuesday, one of four 5A quarterfinals. Both are district champions.
“All eight of these teams are really, really good,” Laborin said. “This will be one of the toughest years to win the big game, because there’s so much going on.”
Centennial brings a young team to state, with only one senior, forward Kelsey Frost. The Hawks will face a terrific Eldorado backcourt led by Cece Barela and Hayley Valencia.
The Los Lunas-Cleveland game is the first of the day, at 4:30 p.m. in Rio Rancho. Marty Zeller, coach of the fourth-seeded Tigers, volunteered to move this game from Los Lunas so fans could attend the game instead at No. 5 Cleveland.
“State basketball without fans is not all that much fun,” Storm coach Susan Kubala said. “I appreciate him making an unselfish decision.”
The basketball, Kubala said, should look familiar to both teams.
“They run a lot of stuff that we run offensively,” she said. “They like to press, they like to go up-tempo, they’re pretty physical. We’re excited about playing them.”
Alexa Madueño (14 ppg) leads Cleveland in scoring. The Tigers have several girls who have been prominent on Los Lunas’ last couple of state championship teams in Class 4A.
Sandia, the 8 seed, opens at No. 1 seed and defending state champ Hobbs. It could be the final prep game for Matadors senior guard Viane Cumber (26.8 ppg), a future Lobo.
La Cueva is a dangerous No. 7 seed, and there will be an abundance of outstanding guard play on display — Jaelyn Bates, Natalia Chavez (recently offered by Colorado State) and Kennedy Brown for Volcano Vista; Jerzie Jones and Rylie Ottmann, among others, for the Bears — when the Hawks welcome La Cueva on Tuesday night.
CLASS 4A: No. 3 seed Bernalillo, with standout junior guard Juliana Aragon (27 ppg), has the only local home game Tuesday, as the Spartans face sixth-seeded Kirtland Central at 6 p.m.
District champion Highland, a 5 seed, led by junior guard Cailee Crawford (20.9 ppg) visits No. 4 Gallup, while seventh-seeded St. Pius travels to play No. 2 Española Valley in Tuesday’s final game anywhere, with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.