It was an end of an era at Cliff when boys basketball coach Pete Shock finished his 35th year with a state basketball title and rode off into retirement.
Or was it?
A Shock is still in charge of the Cowboys in the form of Pete’s son Brian. As for Pete himself, as fellow Class 1A coaches will attest, he’s still on the bench – gradually moving closer to the scorer’s table as the game wears on.
And Cliff’s basketball team? Well, nothing’s really changed at all as the defending champs have the top seed in this year’s tournament and a sparkling 25-3 record.
“We’ve had a good year. For me, it’s been fun getting to know the single-A coaches around the state,” said Brian Shock, whose squad will play Melrose (14-12) in the quarterfinal round.
The younger Shock is in his 10th year as a head coach, but his duties came at 4A schools Aztec and Piedra Vista before he returned home.
“I do some things different than what dad does, and he didn’t come to practice for the first two months, so they could get used to the way I do things,” Shock said.
“But we talked him into coming to sit on the bench.”
The Cowboys have one of the taller Class 1A teams in the state as 6-foot-7 senior Tate Shelley leads the way, averaging 20.5 points a game. He’s joined on the front line by 6-3 sophomore Jace Jenkins and Shelley’s younger brother Holt, who now may be just as tall as Tate but started the season listed at 6-5.
In the backcourt, Cliff is paced by junior Matt Gutierrez as well as sophomores Heath Henderson and Derek Runyan.
“They are just as good as last year. They’re unreal,” Hagerman coach Anthony Mestas said.
Still, there’s nothing that Hagerman (23-4) would rather have than another opportunity at Cliff, whom the Bobcats lost to in last year’s 1A championship game.
Hagerman has a balanced attack behind the frontcourt play of senior Jose Bejarano, who averages 16 points an outing. Senior Jessie Rodriguez, who can also score inside, teams with junior point guard Alejandro Ramos in the backcourt.
The third-seeded Bobcats will have to deal in the quarterfinals with a surprising No. 11 To’hajiilee (17-8) squad that upset sixth-seed Logan in the first round, but Hagerman wants to go much further.
“We really want that rematch with Cliff,” Mestas said. “That game, the clipping of it, I have that up in the locker room for motivation.”
With a sparkling 29-1 record, No. 2 seed Magdalena will take on Springer (18-8) in the quarterfinals, which are Wednesday at Bernalillo High School. The Steers are fond of shooting the long-range jumper with their four-guard offense. The ones primarily responsible for their offensive success are junior guards Tyler Julian and Dee Montoya, who each average more than 17 points per game, while sophomore Mike Chambers also is at 15 ppg. Even eighth-grader Jerrell Mirabal is in the act with 14 points a contest.
“I think basically there’s five to eight teams who can get in there and can win it all,” Magdalena coach Jory Mirabal said.
The No. 4 vs. No. 5 quarterfinal features Dora (24-4) against Escalante (22-3), with the winner moving into the semis against the Cliff-Melrose victor.
Dora, the fourth seed, is led by the Privett brothers – 6-foot-4 senior Dylan and 6-2 sophomore Dalton – while senior Josh Walker paces the Coyotes guards.
“We’re trying to peak at the right time and get lucky,” said Dora coach Kevin Lackey, whose team has won 12 straight. “But Cliff has a big advantage in the tournament because of their size and depth.”