The six losses look a little bit incongruous, when you consider the state rankings of the Highland Hornets.
Class 4A’s defending boys state basketball champions are ranked No. 1 in 4A by the coaches in that division. They are ranked No. 3 by MaxPreps.com. But it’s another number Highland coach Justin Woody is quick to cite: 22.
That would be the number of consecutive victories the Hornets (9-6) have had over fellow 4A programs, he said.
Tuesday saw host Highland paired up with the team it beat in last season’s state final— Del Norte. And this one went like that one, with the Hornets on top, 63-57 over the Knights.
It was just the victory Highland coach Justin Woody and his team were seeking after what they deemed to be a subpar showing at last week’s metro tournament, an eighth-place finish.
“Offensively,” Woody said, “we did a much better job than we did last week. We got open shots, we got open 3s, layups, working for the open shot and wearing them down a little bit with our transition and our offense.”
This game matched up two of 4A’s premier players in Del Norte senior guard Shane Douma-Sanchez, who came in averaging 34.5 points a game, and Highland guard Alexis Dominguez, who averages 18.5 points.
Dominguez led Highland with 19 points. Douma-Sanchez finished with a relatively quiet 31, and just five in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a very good player, and we wanted to keep him under his average,” said Dominguez. “That’s what we did and we got the win.”
Of the 31 points, Woody said, “He definitely earned every one of those.”
Highland’s six losses have all been to 5A teams: Sandia, La Cueva, Atrisco Heritage, Eldorado, Organ Mountain and Cleveland. For now, the Hornets believe Class 4A runs right through them.
They kept Del Norte (9-6) at bay for almost the entirety of the second half. The Knights, who trailed 33-30 at halftime, slipped in front 39-38 on an 18-foot jumper from Douma-Sanchez, but Highland scored the game’s next 10 points and never trailed again.
In that 10-0 run, Dominguez had the first and last baskets as they moved in front 48-39. And Del Norte didn’t get closer than four points the rest of the way.
Highland was 8-of-18 from the arc in the first half. It cooled in the second half, but found enough quality looks, and made enough free throws (10 of 14 in the final two quarters), to win.
Jesus Licon had four of HIghland’s 10 3-pointers, and added 16 points in the victory.
HIGHLAND 63, DEL NORTE 57
DEL NORTE (9-6): Deion Jim 7, Estevan Devargas 5, Aiden Hileman 2, Francois Satchivi 7, Dakarai Mornike 3, Roman Hileman 2, Shane Douma-Sanchez 31. Totals 21 7-10 57.
HIGHLAND (9-6): Jesus Licon 16, Fernando Hernandez 2, Alexis Dominguez 19, Eliab Lopez 2, Samuel Chavez 3, Isai Herrera 7, Sergio Acosta 7, Raul Stanford 7. Totals 20 13-18 63.
Del Norte 14 16 12 15 — 57
Highland 13 18 18 12 — 63
3-point goals: DN 8 (Douma-Sanchez 5, Satchivi, Jim, Devargas); H 10 (Licon 4, Dominguez 3, Chavez, Herrera, Acosta). Total fouls: DN 18; H 13. Technical: DN bench.