BERNALILLO – Once district play began, everything started to come together for the Bernalillo High School boys basketball team.
On Saturday night, No. 8 seed Bernalillo (15-13) pulled away in the fourth quarter and advanced to the Class 4A state quarterfinals by turning back visiting No. 9 seed Socorro 51-33.
The Spartans, once 5-12, have won 10 of their past 11 games. They meet four-time defending state champion Hope Christian on Wednesday at the Santa Ana Star Center.
This is Bernalillo’s first season in this classification.
“When we got into district, we got some people healthy and we got some people eligible that weren’t eligible,” said Bernalillo coach Terry Darnell. “That made us a more complete team.”
Socorro won the battle of tempo, turning the contest into a grind-it-out affair. But the visiting Warriors never whittled the deficit to fewer than six points in the second half while finishing 9-for-39 (23 percent) from the field.
“As simple as it sounds, the team that puts it in the hoop more wins games,” said Socorro first-year coach Ernie Lopez. “You have to hit shots to win tournament games.”
Bernalillo sophomore Reyes Herrera led all scorers with 14 points, but it was the Spartans’ two-headed center – Noah Leyba and Solomon Fragua – that came up big in the final stanza to stem the Warriors’ rally.
Leyba hit a baby hook shot early in the fourth, and then he drove for a layup on his team’s next possession for a hoop-and-harm three-point play.
With Leyba on the bench, Fragua quashed a Socorro 7-0 run that had the visitors within 38-32. The 6-foot-7 post put back a Herrera miss for an easy two, and then pulled off his own traditional three-point play that extended his team’s lead back to 43-32 with 3:06 left.
“We had a little bit of size on them, so those three-point plays (from our big men) really helped us out,” Darnell said.
Socorro (18-11) was led by Wesley Mauldin’s nine points.
As for the Spartans, Darnell hopes his team can pull off the shocker next week when his team faces the Huskies.
“Whether it’s the quarterfinals or the finals, you still have to beat Hope (Christian),” he said. “Our mentality is to go out and do our best, and see what happens.”
– Patrick Newell
No. 1 HOPE CHRISTIAN 71, No. 16 HATCH VALLEY 25: At Hope, 12 Huskies got into the scoring column as they routed the Bears and opened up their quest for a fifth consecutive state championship.
Senior guard Marcus Medina had a team-best 12 points for Hope Christian (23-5).
Forward Nelson Longmire added 10 points for the Huskies, who outscored Hatch Valley 44-12 in the middle two quarters.
Hope did not face Bernalillo in the regular season.
ALSO: No. 4 Robertson beat No. 13 Sandia Prep 81-56 on Saturday, as the Cardinals advance to the quarterfinals, where they will face nemesis West Las Vegas late Wednesday night at the Star Center. The fifth-seeded Dons routed No. 12 Ruidoso, 82-50.
No. 3 Silver, Moriarty, No. 7 St. Michael’s and No. 2 Portales all won their first-round contests; the Pintos are the surprise team left in the field, as a No. 11 seed. They routed No. 6 Pojoaque Valley 66-32 on Saturday and will face the Colts on Wednesday morning in the quarterfinals at the Star Center.
(5) BELEN 67, (12) LOVINGTON 59: In Belen, the Eagles continued to defy adversity and advanced to the state quarterfinals by getting past the pesky Wildcats, who made the game seem close throughout with their pressure defense.
Belen (21-7) shot an incredible 40 free throws, making 27 as the two teams combined to commit 37 fouls in the second half and 48 total in the game. By contrast, Lovington (13-15) shot 29 freebies and sank 15.
The Eagles assembled an 11-0 run midway through the second quarter to take a 24-9 lead.
Lovington trailed 24-14 at halftime then fell behind 30-15 with 6:09 left in the third quarter as Belen got a quick six-point surge.
From there, the Wildcats kept up the pressure. After an 8-0 run cut the deficit back down to 32-24 with 4:41 left in the third quarter, it looked like Lovington would seize the initiative, but Belen withstood every run and kept the lead hovering at eight points the rest of the way.
With the win, Belen is now 3-1 under interim head coach Pablo Gabaldon, who took over after former head coach Patrick Mondragon was placed on unpaid administrative leave by the Belen Schools after being charged last month with criminal sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl.
(6) LOS LUNAS 50, (11) GRANTS 45: In Los Lunas, the Tigers faced down the district rival Pirates with what coach Travis Julian called the team’s “best defensive effort of the season” to advance to the quarterfinals for the fifth season in a row.
Sophomore forward A.J. Garcia scored a game-high 18 points to lead Los Lunas (23-5) while senior Hunter Wisneski scored 15, hitting three critical 3-pointers in the second half to keep Grants (16-11) at bay.
The Pirates were led by Matt Vail, who scored a team-high 15 points. Fellow senior Michael Anzures added 11 points, including a shot in the fourth quarter that cut the Tiger lead to four at 47-43.
Los Lunas faces Farmington in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
– Kenn Rodriguez
ALSO: Del Norte’s boys authored one of the more shocking upsets of the first weekend, as the 13th-seeded Knights knocked out defending state champion Española Valley, 63-56. The Sundevils were hindered throughout by poor free-throw shooting.
The Knights face Belen in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at the Pit.
No. 7 Alamogordo avenged a regular-season loss to St. Pius and downed the 10th-seeded Sartans 60-50.
Classes 2A, 1A
Menaul, seeded No. 6 in 2A, defeated To’Hajiilee 70-51. Danny Serrano led the Panthers (24-6) with 28 points.
From 1A, No. 10 seed Floyd came to Albuquerque and upset No. 7 Evangel Christian, 45-31.
Class 5A — First Round Boxes
No. 5 BELEN 67, No. 12 LOVINGTON 59
LOVINGTON (13-15) Pablo Aguilera 2, Aaron Lujan 5, Isaiah Hinson 6, Sergio Sanchez, Gage Sandoval 19, Isaiah Brown 8, Alijah Ballard 8, Matt Salazar 4, Arturo Carrasco 4. 20-FG 15-29-FT 59
BELEN (21-7) Nick Trujillo 21, Justin Evans 4, Garrett Gallegos 14, Gabe Chavirra 12, Mateo Tapia 2, Matthew Padilla 10, Ryan Garcia 4. 17-FG 27-40-FT 67
Lovington 7 7 17 28—59
Belen 13 11 19 24—67
3-Point FG: L 5 (Sandoval 3, Lujan, Sanchez), B 6 (Gallegos 3, Trujillo 2, Chavirra). Team Fouls: L 26; B 24. Fouled out: L, Ballard; G, Chavira.
No. 6 LOS LUNAS 50, No. 11 GRANTS 45
GRANTS (16-11) Michael Anzures 11, Matt Vail 15, Damiel Molares 5, Tyler Hickman 2, Koby Garcia 6, Greg Harris 6. 17-FG 5-6-FT 45
LOS LUNAS (24-5) Hunter Wisneski 15, Isaic Romero 4, Nick Gaerlan 1, Devon Heybourne 2, A.J. Garcia 18, Zanen Zeller 4, Kayden Walker-Gabaldon 6. 20-FG 7-10-FT 50
Grants 5 12 14 14—45
Los Lunas 10 12 16 12—50
3-Point FG: G 6 (Chavez 3, Griego, Bachman,); LL 3 (Wisneski 3). Team Fouls: G 2; LL 11. Fouled out: G, Harris. Tech Fouls: G, Harris.
Class 4A — First Round Boxes
No. 1 Hope Christian 71, No. 16 Hatch Valley 25
HATCH VALLEY (12-17) Jojan Machuca 1, Seth Rios 5, Isaiah Tellez 3, Darren Garay 10, Juan Chairez 6. Totals 10-FG 3-8-FT 25.
HOPE CHRISTIAN (23-5) JJ Ortiz 6, Marcus Medina 12, Isaiah Dockery 4, John Trejo 3, Lucas Jaramillo 5, Nelson Longmire 10, Cole Yearout 7, Christian Martinez 3, Preston Ulibarri 9, Chris Ward 3, Troy Phillips 3, Collin Evans 6. Totals 25-FG 17-28-FT 71.
Hatch Valley 10 4 8 3—25
Hope Christian 15 26 18 12—71
3-Point FG: HV 2 (Rios, Tellez); HC 4 (Jaramillo, Martinez, Ullibarri, Phillips). Team Fouls: HV 23; HC 10. Tech.: HV, Tellez.
No. 7 St. Michael’s 59, No. 10 Wingate 48
WINGATE (15-13) Trevor Morgan 16, Brandon Belone 14, Manuelito Chee 12, Leon Alnozo 2, Sheldon Lee 2, Joshua Holiday 2. Totals 18-FG 5-9-FT 48.
ST. MICHAEL’S (15-14) Jevon Montoya 18, Thomas Pacheco 16, Curtis Rogers 9, Anotnio Gabaldon 9, Adam Tupler 4, Esteban Alcaraz 2, Dominic Morgan 1. Totals 20-FG 13-17-FT 59.
Wingate 7 9 15 17—48
St. Michaels 19 23 8 9—59
3-Point FG: W 7 (Belone 2, Morgan 4, Chee); SM 6 (Rogers, Pacheco 3, Montoya 2). Team Fouls: W 18; SM 13.
No. 8 BERNALILLO 51, No. 9 SOCORRO 33
SOCORRO (18-11): Ryan Botko 5, Marquez Perez 7, Wesley Mauldin 9, Tyler Greenwood 6, Damian Townsend 6. FG-9, FT 12-20 33
BERNALILLO (15-13): Reyes Herrera 14, Isiah Chavez 4, Tyrese Coriz 4, Fernando Villegas 2, Brandon Warren 4, Luis Villegas 5, Solomon Fragua 7, Noah Leyba 11. FG-17, 15-18 51
Socorro 7 9 9 8—33
Bernalillo 11 13 9 18—51
3-point goals: B 2 (Herrera, L. Villegas); S 3 (Mauldin 2, Botko). Team fouls: B, 17; S, 16. Fouled out: B, Fragua, L. Villegas.
Class 2A — First Round Boxes
Menaul 70, To’hajiilee 51
To’hajiilee 6 16 11 18—51
Menaul 10 27 14 19—70
Leading Scorers: T, Trevor Platero 12; M, Kyrie Hu 12, Michael Ou 14, Danny Serrano 28. Rec.: M 24-6; T 20-9.