It was kind of a strange night at La Cueva.
An early dunk by the Bears kick-started the festivities – for Eldorado, actually. And that dunk didn’t even take place during the game. More information forthcoming.
Two hours later, however, it was a very late layup that won it for the home team.
Down 14 in the second half, La Cueva – led by the crowd-pleasing work of junior guard Elijah Herron – rallied past its nemesis and stunned the visiting Eagles 61-59 on Wednesday night, thus preventing Eldorado from clinching the District 2-6A regular-season championship.
Herron had a terrific assist to Thomas Jenson, who laid it in to break a 59-all tie and cap a thrilling comeback.
“Our coaches kept saying, ‘Don’t let them celebrate on our court,'” said Herron, who lit up the gym, scoring 18 points for the Bears (11-12, 7-2 in 2-6A), including 16 after halftime. “It was pretty fun.”
Herron, channeling his inner Steph Curry, led the charge in the second half for the Bears, who were down 39-25 two minutes into the third quarter.
With a barrage of 3-pointers – four of them over a period of about 4½ minutes – Herron single-handedly brought his team back.
The third of those treys, at the end of the third quarter, left Eldorado clinging to a 47-44 lead. And then Herron opened the fourth quarter, stepping back to about 25 feet, and buried another, tying the game for the first time.
“He was feeling it,” said La Cueva coach Frank Castillo. Herron’s father Edward, who lives in Atlanta, was in the stands, partly because it was senior night for Elijah’s older brother E.J. “He practices that shot all the time, too.”
La Cueva trailed this game 16-3 out of the gate. Eldorado (17-6, 8-1) got two free throws before the opening tip because a Bears player dunked in the pregame, which is a technical foul.
“We told them to just battle back,” said Castillo. “We told them, ‘You guys will have some chances.'”
Lawrence Calais had 20 points, a team-best for the Bears.
“People are gonna have to consider that maybe we’re a team to be reckoned with,” Castillo said.
Eldorado can still clinch the 2-6A regular-season crown, but has to win at Santa Fe on Saturday to do it. There is a possibility of a three-way tie, if the Demons (7-2) win and La Cueva beats Clovis, also on Saturday.
ATRISCO HERITAGE 65, RIO GRANDE 50: At Rio Grande, the Jaguars (16-7, 8-1) clinched the 4-6A regular-season title. Enrique Bibian scored 18 points, one of four in double figures for Atrisco Heritage.
ALBUQUERQUE HIGH 64, HIGHLAND 59: At AHS, guards Randy Castillo and Jai Douglas combined for 35 points as the Bulldogs (16-7, 6-3 in 4-6A) had to rally in the fourth quarter to hold off an upset attempt.
VALLEY 59, WEST MESA 46: At Valley, Segun Oyeku had a team-high 21 points for the Vikings (14-9, 6-3 in 4-6A).