The state high school basketball tournament continued with seven games Friday, all at the Pit, and the first three state champions were decided on Bob King Court. The final seven will be decided on an exciting Saturday.
In addition to our game coverage, the already plenty busy Journal’s James Yodice has offered a fun feature on the San Jon team that won the girls’ first NMAA championship 50 years ago. That team will be honored at the tournament on Saturday.
See James’ Twitter feed below, the NMAA’s Twitter feed as well, and check out the updates from Friday’s action.One more day to go.
CLASS 4A GIRLS
The biggest prize in Class 4A girls basketball is returning to a familiar home. But not Kirtland, N.M.
Kirtland Central was seeking its 21st state title, but instead watched its to-the-south rival from Gallup take the 4A crown . The second-seeded Bengals took down the top-seeded Broncos 57-47 before a raucous crowd on Friday night at the Pit. The lower bowl was nearly filled as this much-anticipated final attracted probably the biggest fan gathering of the week.
Gallup, with its seventh championship, has won state for the second time in three seasons. The school’s 2021 title happened in May, and in a pandemic season when there were restrictions on crowd size.
The last full-season championship for Gallup (28-5) occurred in 2011. And this win also allowed the Bengals to take the season series, 3-2, against Kirtland Central.
“Both the programs are at a very high level,” Gallup coach Todd McBroom said. “Both teams are separated a lot from other teams in 4A at the moment.”
To that end, this seemed less like No. 1 Kirtland Central and No. 2 Gallup, and more like No. 1 and 1A.
“I would agree with that,” McBroom said.
His team took control of the game with an 11-2 run to close the first half, then withstood a furious Broncos rally in the second half.
Sophomore forward Rylie Whitehair put the Bengals ahead for good midway through the quarter. She knocked in a shot off the glass as she was falling down, was fouled, and completed the three-point play for a 23-22 lead.
“Rylie, she’s a good post,” Kirtland Central’s Aaryanna Lansing said. “She’s big, she’s strong, and it’s hard to work around her.”
Whitehair was physical throughout, shooting a game-high 10 free throws. She said she took every opportunity “to take (my defender) to the basket.”
The Bengals, once in front, stayed in front.
Kiera Livingston and Daliyah Morris connected on back-to-back 3-pointers as the Bengals, who had trailed 16-10 earlier, seized a 31-22 lead late in the half. The Bengals also converted two late turnovers into baskets and carried a 35-24 halftime lead up the ramp. Gallup outscored Kirtland Central 25-8 in the pivotal second quarter.
“We had to go to five guards, and we haven’t gone five guards all year,” Broncos coach Devon Manning said. “Our bigs were in foul trouble.”
But Kirtland Central (29-4), down 43-30 midway through the third quarter after Gallup scored six straight, including two run-outs that led to wide open layups, made it interesting. It scored the next 11, cutting the deficit to 43-41 with 5:38 remaining.
Then Gallup senior guad Kiera Livingston hit a 19-foot jumper seconds later, and Tello scored on a drive to the basket to stop the Broncos’ momentum for good.
Whitehair had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Gallup. Livingston contributed 12 points and four assists. For the Broncos, Lansing finished with 19 points and 10 boards.– James Yodice
Gallup Kc 4 a Girls Final by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
CLASS 3A GIRLS
No. 4 TOHATCHI 46, No. 3 SANTA FE INDIAN SCHOOL 24: In the Pit,Behind a ferocious defense that absolutely stymied Santa Fe Indian School, Tohatchi on Friday claimed its second Class 3A girls state title with a 46-24 victory.
After the No. 3 Braves (23-8) scored the game’s first bucket, they didn’t score again for more than nine minutes as the fourth-seeded Cougars (24-9) went on a 14-0 run to gain control of the game.
The margin crept back into single digits midway through the third quarter at 22-13 after 8-2 Indian School run. But Tohatchi promptly followed with a 20-2 run to put the game away.
“Here’s what happened,” Braves coach Teri Morrison said. “We didn’t score the ball and they did. And they are on a roll. That’s momentum. That’s what March Madness is about. That’s what the state tournament is about. And I give them great credit. Their coach does a great job. Their kids were fired up. Their community was.”
Indian School went 10-of-45 (22.2%) from the field and had just five first-half points until hitting a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left before the break.
“At this level, obviously, they’re a great team, they’re in the state championship game,” Tohatchi coach Tanisha Bitsoi said. “But to hold a team to five points says a lot about us defensively and how hard they worked because they wanted it so bad.”
For Brooke Badonie, who was injured for the bulk of last season and suffered her own shooting woes against the Braves in a 2022 semifinal loss, this was sweet redemption.
“I’m just happy that we were able to come together the end and come through as a team,” she said, adding with a smile, “This feels so much better than last year.”
Still, the Cougars had their ups and down.
“This is very emotional,” Bitsoi said. “We’ve gone through so much this season and this opportunity presents itself for them. They’re very hard-working young ladies.”
Battling through their adversity helped prepare the team for the state championship, she said.
“I’m just full of emotions,” Bitsoi said. “Teams go through different things. It’s just within our group. They young ladies know. It’s something that’s done with. They battled through and stuck together. All season we’ve just stressed that if we stuck together as a team, we can do incredible things together.”
And that indeed did come to fruition.
“We watched their game (Thursday) night against Navajo Prep and I felt like if we could put our pressure on them, that if the girls played with urgency and effort that we normally play with on our press, I felt like they would be vulnerable to turn the ball over. We came in with that mindset and that game plan and the girls executed it to its fullest potential.” — Glen Rosales
TohatchiSFIS3AGirlsFinal by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
CLASS 3A BOYS
NO. 1 ST. MICHAEL’S 70, NO. 4 SANDIA PREP 43: After coming up short in last year’s boys Class 3A championship game, St. Michael’s played like a team on a mission against Sandia Prep.
The top-seeded Horsemen pressured and flustered the No. 4 Sundevils at every turn, racking up 28 points off turnovers en route to a 70-43 semifinal victory on Friday at the Pit. The win sets up a championship rematch with Robertson Saturday at noon. The Cardinals defeated the Horsemen 65-56 in the 3A final a year ago.
“We’ve been in this situation before. These guys are ready all year long,” St. Michael’s coach Gerard Garcia said. “I knew we had the team to come back to the championship game. It’s a matter of putting all the pieces together.”
The Horsemen, who have won their three postseason games by an average margin of 31 points, closed on an 11-4 run behind 3-pointers from Marco C de Baca, Lucas Gurule and Adam Montoya to take a 29-16 lead into halftime. A 10-0 run extended the lead to 45-22 midway through the third quarter, and the rout was on.
“I just think we were focused and ready to play,” Montoya said. “We always come off slow. Today I think we were just ready.”
Montoya led St. Michael’s with a game-high 24 points, while C de Baca added 16. The Horsemen held a decided edge over the Sundevils in a number of key areas, including points in the paint (42-24), second- chance points (18-8) and fast-break points (19-7).
The St. Michael’s pressure, which forced Sandia Prep into 23 turnovers and disrupted its half-court offense, “really helped us get our energy. It always helps us get our energy,” C de Baca said. “And it helps on the offensive end.”
The end result was a far cry from the first meeting between the two teams, which St. Michael’s won 54-52 in Albuquerque on Jan. 10.
“I just think they came out and jumped on us and played harder, played stronger. We knew if we turned the ball over we didn’t have a chance,” Sandia Prep coach Marcos Rivera said. “We turned the ball over early, they got on us and we just could never get our traction. Credit to them. They did everything we knew they were going to do, and they did it well.”
Alex Jeffries had 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and 10 rebounds for Sandia Prep, but teammates such as Peyton Henderson (0-for-8) and Jaxon Feit (5-for-17) struggled to put the ball in the basket. In many cases, Sandia Prep was forced to settle for difficult, contested shots.
“They play hard, they’re physical, they’re tough,” Rivera said of St. Michael’s. “I’ve tried my best to try and get my kids to be tough and to know what to expect, and be able to do it too. We just didn’t do it today. They just put their will on us, and we never got going.” — Tristen Critchfield
St Mikes Sandia Prep by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
No. 3 ROBERTSON 49, No. 2 NAVAJO PREP 36: Mateo Contreras scored 19 points to lead the Cardinals (26-5) to victory in the other semifinal. Bodie Schlinger’s 12 rebounds led Robertson, w hich put away a tight game with a 10-0 fourth-quarter run. Jude Thomas led Navajo Prep (26-3) with 17 points.
Robertson Navajo Prep by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
CLASS 2A GIRLS
NO. 7 TEXICO 44, NO. 1 ESCALANTE 30: While it might be difficult to call a program with 10 state championships to its credit an underdog, the Texico girls were exactly that entering the 2023 tournament.
The seventh-seeded Wolverines defied the odds, knocking off the top three seeds in the Class 2A bracket to capture their 11th blue trophy in girls basketball. That journey culminated with a 44-30 victory over No. 1 Escalante on Friday night at the Pit.
“These girls bought in from Day 1,” said Texico coach Jaylyn Cook. “At times, whenever our record was a little bit shaky, I think it was questionable. But they stayed on board, they bought into what we taught and believed. In the end they battled together.”
Texico (17-13) pulled away in the third quarter, when it increased a one-point halftime lead to 30-21 by the end of the period. Emma Wahlen scored six of her team high 12 points during that time, and the Wolverines held Escalante (22-8) without a field goal until the 1:37 mark of the quarter. The Lobos struggled mightily on offense, especially in the second half, when it made just 3-of-26 shots. Escalante finished the game shooting 19 percent from the field and 1-for-17 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, Wolverines’ star Catelyn Breshears spent the majority of the game as the focus of a box-and-one defense, which often meant she was face-guarded by an Escalante defender. She made the most of her limited opportunities with 10 points while going 4 for 5 from the floor.
“I was really frustrated because she (the defender) was just in my face,” Breshears said. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t see. These girls really stepped up and scored and rebounded really well.”
In addition to a solid defensive effort, the Wolverines held a 47-to-33 advantage on the boards. Wahlen and Kinzee Crow led the way for Texico with 10 rebounds apiece. Brycelyn Martinez was the top scorer for Escalante with 12 points.
It is Texico’s first championship since 2018. — Tristen Critchfield
Texico Escalante Girls 2 a Final by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
Just don’t call the 75-60 win in Friday’s Class 2A semifinal at the Pit a “revenge game” for top-seeded Pecos. That, according to coach Arthur Gonzales, wasn’t the sentiment heading into the rematch from last year’s championship game, which No. 4 Menaul won to capture the school’s first-ever blue trophy in basketball.
“We actually didn’t (mention revenge). We talked about (the rematch) after the (quarterfinal) game against Eunice. We mentioned across the board, we have each other’s back,” Gonzales said. “It’s good for papers. People love that. We know that when you get to this point, everyone wants that opportunity to get that win.”
Pecos will face second-seeded Academy for Technology and The Classics in the Class 2A championship Saturday at the Pit at 8 a.m.
Jodaiah Padilla, one of nine seniors on the Pecos roster, led the way for his team with 30 points — including 16 of 18 from the foul line. Pecos also got double-figure scoring from Malik Barrens (14) and Aidan Holton (13).
“It feels really good, especially after what happened last year,” Padilla said. “I’m just thankful for my teammates. They were putting me in positions to score and be able to succeed. It was just a good game all around.”
Pecos (27-3) forced Menaul (22-10) into a frenetic pace as it raced out to a 46-31 halftime lead. Menaul responded at the outset of the second half with a 14-2 run — punctuated by a 3-point play from Brayden Chavez — to cut the deficit to 48-45 with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter. That was as close as Menaul would get. Pecos scored the last five points of the period and maintained a double-digit lead for the majority of the fourth quarter, sealing its victory behind 16 points at the charity stripe. Pecos made 31 of 34 free throw attempts.
Menaul’s Prashant Chouhan and Abhishek Yadov both had their playing time limited before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Chouhan led Menaul with 17 points, while Yadav had 15.
The foul situation hindered Menaul more than playing a frenetic opponent, said coach Gary Boatman.
“I don’t know that we were tired. Maybe a little bit,” Boatman said. “I think it was pure fouls, truthfully. We started playing slower — and then turnovers. That rattled us. We were playing passive. So turning it over and being a little scared to play D is a bad combination.”
Pecos is in the title game for the sixth time in the last seven years with four straight championships from 2017 -2020.
“These guys lost a tough one last year,” Gonzales said. “It’s stuck with them. That’s part of life and so now we’re grateful to have this opportunity again, to have a chance to win a title.” — Tristen Critchfield
Menaul Pecos by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
Texico (17-13) had six players score at least six points and was led by Ayden Carey, who gave spark with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting in 9 minutes, 30 minutes of action. Texico gave itself a chance with a 17-9 edge in bench points, but it wasn’t enough.
ATCTexico by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Boys Basketball State Championships Class 5A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Boys Basketball State Championships Class 4A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Boys Basketball State Championships Class 3A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Boys Basketball State Championships Class 2A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Boys Basketball State Championships Class A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Girls Basketball State Championships Class 5A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Girls Basketball State Championships Class 4A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Girls Basketball State Championships Class 3A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Girls Basketball State Championships Class 2A
2023 Nusenda Credit Union Girls Basketball State Championships Class A