Opening night of prep basketball, and Rio Grande enjoys its new digs - Albuquerque Journal

Opening night of prep basketball, and Rio Grande enjoys its new digs

Atrisco Heritage and host Rio Grande’s boys play in the Ravens’ new gym on Tuesday to begin the 2022-23 high school basketball season. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

It has been so long since Rio Grande High School hosted a basketball game that almost none of the Ravens who were on the floor Tuesday night had ever been part of a home game on their own campus.

“It was nice,” senior guard Jonah Lopez said. He was a freshman in February of 2020, which was the last time the Ravens played a game at Rio Grande.

“I could feel the energy from the crowd.”

After over 2½ years, Rio Grande officially unveiled its new, 2,600-seat gymnasium as the boys hosted Atrisco Heritage in a 2022-23 season opener.

The result, an 88-64 victory for the Jaguars, was not what the Ravens had hoped for, but there was some solace in being part of a historic night for the venerable school which opened in 1959.

“I played here in (1994) … it’s good to (have a new gym), not just for the students, but for the community,” Rio Grande coach Mario Armendariz said.

For the record, Atrisco Heritage’s Latavious Morris had the first basket in the new gym, just 11 seconds into the game on a mid-range jumper. The Jaguars scored the game’s first 14 points, in fact, before junior guard Jonathon Lukesh had the first two points for the Ravens nearly three minutes after tipoff.

Lukesh had a game-best 27 points. Chris Parra had a team-high 26 to lead Atrisco Heritage. Morris added 20 points.

A crowd of about 600 was on hand for Rio Grande’s homecoming. As soon as Rio Grande hosted its final home game in the late winter of 2020 – this would have been just a couple of weeks before the pandemic shut down all high school sports in New Mexico – workers began the process of tearing down the old gym.

And the new gym was erected on the same site.

Unlike the old gym, there is seating on the lower and upper level on each side of the gym.

“It was nice to be at home,” Armendariz said.

In the 32 or so months since the last home game, the Ravens have been forced to practice at middle schools in their cluster. All of them had rubber floors, which is not an ideal environment, Armendariz noted.

But there were few great options as the Ravens boys and girls played all of an abbreviated spring 2021 schedule, and then the entirety of 2021-22, away from the comforts of the South Valley.

Aside from the first moments of the game, the Ravens felt they hung fairly well with Atrisco Heritage, which is expected to be one of the better teams in Class 5A.

“That team is not that much better than us,” said the 6-foot-2 Lopez. “We shot ourselves in the foot, and we beat ourselves.”

Tuesday marked opening night for any number of schools in Albuquerque, including both defending Class 5A state champions.

The Volcano Vista boys went on the road and crushed 4A St. Pius, 75-40. Forward Kenyon Aguino had 26 points and was 8-of-9 from the floor for the Hawks. David Gutierrez added 11 points and seven steals in the victory.

At Volcano Vista, the girls won their 43rd straight game, 73-42 over Tohatchi.

Mari Manzanares had her first career double-double, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Taejhuan Hill led the Hawks with 18 points, although she was in foul trouble most of the way.

NOTES: Del Norte senior guard Shane Douma-Sanchez reached the 1,000-point total for his Knights career during a 35-point performance in their 77-55 victory Tuesday over Pojoaque Valley. … Senior guard Andres Maldonado’s 3-pointer with 2 seconds left on Monday night gave the Eldorado boys a 46-45, season-opening win at Carlsbad.

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