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Girls prep basketball preview

Reasonable people can argue about which girls basketball teams might spring up and challenge for a Class 5A state championship in March.

But at least they’re all in agreement on who they’re chasing.

“Clovis,” Volcano Vista coach Lisa Villareal said, “is by far the No. 1 team in the state right now.”

“I think,” veteran Eldorado coach Mike Huston added, “that we’re all chasing Clovis.”

The 2013-14 season gets underway for most of the metro area tonight.

In 5A, the Hawks and La Cueva – both state semifinalists last season – along with Cibola and Eldorado, are on that short list of teams that figure to be challenging for a berth in the season’s final game.

Volcano Vista features a terrific senior backcourt with Hannah Fenske and Bianca Perez, which is one reason the Hawks look to be strong once again.

“I’d like to think we’re in the top four,” Villareal said.

La Cueva has its own dynamic tandem with junior guard Alexa Romano and junior post Alyssa Yocky.

“And I think that will take us a long way,” Bears coach Robert Perea said. “I’m excited about this group, because of their versatility.”

The Bears stand as the early favorite in District 2-5A, although Eldorado figures to have something to say about that down the road.

While all-state post Kerstin Strong has graduated, the Eagles, one of 5A’s best defensive teams, return their other four starters and have the depth and inside-outside balance that could sidetrack La Cueva.

“We have a ton of depth,” Huston said. “We probably have eight or nine kids who could start in other lineups.”

Sandia would have been bolstered to no end by transfer Jourden Williams, an outstanding player from Manzano, but the junior won’t be eligible for varsity this season, Matadors’ athletic director Tom Knauber said Monday.

Manzano, meanwhile, having lost Williams, faces an uphill climb in 2-5A.

  • In District 1-5A, it would appear that Volcano Vista and Cibola are a cut above the Rio Rancho half of that league.

Cibola coach Lori Mabrey said this is the deepest team she’s had in her nine seasons, although the Cougars lost a first-team all-state post in Kassandra Harris.

Scoring could be an early concern, but Mabrey has a new point guard in Dominique Carpenter.

“I’m pretty excited we got her,” Mabrey said of the transfer she described as a dynamic passer.

Cleveland is starting over with five new starters, and Rio Rancho is relatively young but a darkhorse.

  • Valley is the three-time defending champion in District 5-5A, but for the first time in several years, the Vikings may face a very serious challenge to their throne.

“Albuquerque High is probably the team that really do some good things (in our district),” Valley coach Rich Harbin said.

Albuquerque High returns all five starters, led by Ashley Perez, although the Bulldogs have been snakebitten head-to-head against Valley – a hurdle AHS will have to overcome to unseat the Vikings.

“They have always been our nemesis,” AHS coach Doug Dorame said. “(But) this is the most skilled group I’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Rio Grande freshman Daniella Ortega could help turn the Ravens into a team to watch, if not this year than in future seasons.

Highland, West Mesa and Atrisco Heritage are hoping they can be competitive come district time.

Clovis beat Mayfield for the 5A championship last season.

Class 4A

Junior all-state guard Natalie Zamora hopes to lead St. Pius deep into the playoffs, but the problem is, the 4A division is perhaps just as deep as 5A – led by defending state champion Los Lunas.

The Tigers, coach Marty Zeller said, might even be stronger this season than last season as they look to separate themselves from the likes of Roswell, Santa Fe, Gallup, Española Valley and perhaps even the Sartans. Plus their district (6-4A) which is loaded.

“They have the best player in the state in Teige Zeller,” St. Pius coach Phil Griego said of Los Lunas, “and I still think they’re the best team in 4A.”

Zeller, a 6-2 senior, is signing with the University of Nevada, but the Tigers were far from a one-woman show at the Pit last March.

Los Lunas defeated Roswell in last March’s 4A title game.

Class 3A

Hope Christian has been a regular-season dynamo the last couple of seasons, but that has not translated to success at state, something longtime coach Terry Heisey hopes will change this season.

The Huskies fell to Lovington in last season’s 3A final.

Notes

Menaul will not have a varsity girls basketball team in 2013-14, athletic director Jeff Strohecker said.

Meanwhile, Bosque School is taking a very unique approach – the Bobcats will not have a varsity season until January. Only four girls had shown up when practices began, forcing the school’s hand.

All Bosque games in the first half of the season, AD Bruce Stell said, were canceled.

The school is expecting more athletes to come out for the team after the holidays, so the Bobcats will simply compete for half a season.

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