Aside from the dozens of boys and girls basketball teams who punched their tickets to this year’s state tournament, probably the biggest winners Sunday were the men and women who own gas stations in New Mexico.
This is going to be a profitable week for them.
The 10 brackets announced Sunday by the New Mexico Activities Association have created the usual assortment of wonderfully rare geographic pairings, like the Centennial boys from Las Cruces visiting Piedra Vista in Farmington. Or the Tse’ Yi’ Gai girls from Cuba going to Tatum.
On the second day of March, the madness began in earnest, as the playoff pairings for Classes 1A-5A were unveiled. Class B comes next weekend.
There are three all-metro games in the first round, all rematches of regular-season games.
The No. 1 seed, Valley, plays host to No. 16 Cibola. Second-seeded Sandia is home to No. 15 Rio Rancho, and No. 4 Volcano Vista welcomes No. 13 West Mesa.
“I think our guys believe,” Mustangs coach Shonn Schroer said. “I think playing in (District) 5-5A is going to help us going into the postseason.”
Volcano beat West Mesa by nine in the regular season.
Valley beat Cibola by six three months ago.
But Rio Rancho upset Sandia 61-55 on Jan. 28.
Two dangerous southern entries, defending state champion Las Cruces and Carlsbad, both are visiting.
The 10th-seeded Bulldawgs are at No. 7 Eldorado. The Eagles won’t have head coach Roy Sanchez, who was ejected in Saturday’s district tournament final with Sandia. Since it was his second ejection of the season, he has to miss the team’s next two games.
“Las Cruces is a good team, but our guys will be fine. We’ll prepare hard,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said he was extremely frustrated by the physical nature of Saturday’s game, which featured a combined 87 free throws.
“I wish there was some kind of appeal process,” he said.
The Cavemen, seeded 11th, are at No. 6 Cleveland, which has been hamstrung of late without its second-leading scorer, sophomore forward Marcus Williams. But Williams, Storm coach Brian Smith said Sunday, is expected back for Carlsbad.
Atrisco Heritage earned a No. 3 seed, and a first-rounder against Alamogordo.
Many of these Jaguars reached the Pit as sophomores when AHA was still a 4A program.
“This group of kids has been hungry to get back to the Pit,” Jags coach Adrian Ortega said. “I wouldn’t bet against us.”
Roswell (4A), Hope Christian (3A), undefeated Laguna Acoma (2A) and Cliff (1A) were the other No. 1 seeds.
St. Pius’ boys, defending their title in 4A, are a No. 3 seed and play old rival Belen in the first round. Albuquerque Academy, the No. 7, is home to No. 10 Farmington.
Hope gets Raton in 3A’s first round. Sandia Prep, seeded seventh, meets No. 10 Shiprock.
Clovis (5A), Shiprock (3A), Texico (2A) and Tatum (1A) joined Los Lunas as No. 1 seeds on Sunday. First-round games in each girls division are Friday.
All six teams from District 6-4A qualified for state, led by the Tigers, who beat Roswell in last year’s 4A state final for the school’s first title.
“This group … I think their focus will be there, and I’m totally confident with our eight (core players) that we have,” Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller said.
In 5A, there are two all-metro first-round games – No. 10 Albuquerque at No. 7 La Cueva, and Rio Grande, the 15, at second-seeded Cibola.
Volcano Vista (5), Eldorado (6) and Valley (8) also earned first-round home games. The Vikings will square off against ninth-seeded Carlsbad.
Clovis is the defending 5A champion.
St. Pius’ girls were awarded a No. 3 seed in 4A, and the Sartans open against Los Alamos. Santa Fe is seeded between Los Lunas and St. Pius.
Del Norte, the 11 seed in 4A, visits No. 6 Valencia.
Hope’s girls have a No. 4 seed this year, and open with Wingate. Two-time defending state champion Lovington won’t be a longshot this year; the Wildcats are the No. 2 seed this March.
Sandia Prep is seeded sixth in 3A, paired with No. 11 Raton.