RIO RANCHO — Two teams going in opposite directions met for the first time in more than three years, and Sandia’s 6-foot-6 center, Sean Johnson, was more than Cleveland could handle in a 62-55 victory.
Johnson scored a game-high 25 points to lead Sandia (8-6) to its fourth win in a row, sending host Cleveland to its fourth loss in a row — its longest skid in coach Sean Jimenez’s six seasons with the Storm (10-7).
After four lead changes in the first half, the Matadors used an 11-0 run in the third period to take their biggest lead of the game, with Johnson scoring the final five points in that spurt.
Down 41-31 at the end of the third quarter, Cleveland went on a 9-2 run to close the gap before Sandia pulled away again.
“We’re still not at full strength,” lamented Sandia coach Danny Brown, whose brother Greg has led his Volcano Vista Hawks to two wins this season over the Storm. “We’re missing four kids, but we’ve got big Sean Johnson back and our point guard, Dalen (Moyer); they make a big difference, and we’ve been weathering the storm.”
The Matadors made only one 3-pointer in the game, but so what?
“We’re gonna score in the paint, so we feed off that, try to play fast,” Brown said. “We have arguably the best player in the state, and when (Johnson) is down there on the block, and he can score down there — our guys buy into that and feed him the ball.”
Ely Lovato scored 16 points for Sandia, including 8 of 8 at the foul line.
The Storm, headed for a Saturday afternoon game at Hobbs, was led by Cole Savage’s 20 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter.