Mismatch? Maybe not.
With exactly one minute left in Tuesday night’s game between No. 2 Sandia Prep and a rebuilding Robertson, the score was 42-42.
Within that final minute, the visiting Sundevils found enough push to escape Mike Marr Gym with a win.
Sandia Prep’s 6-4 forward Kody Salcido backed a defender up and caught the ball in the low post, spinning and scoring to take a two-point lead.
Robertson frosh Justin Bustos answered by attacking the lane on the other end, drawing a foul. He hit the first free throw but missed the second, leaving RHS down 44-43 with 17 seconds left.
The Sundevils skipped ahead of the RHS defense and fed the ball to Marcos Chavez, who slipped along the baseline for a short floater to extend the lead to 46-43 with eight seconds left.
Amid heavy traffic as the Sundevils challenged his shot, Larry Romero pulled up for a 20-foot jumper with three seconds to go. The ball careened off target; Clint Brayfield retrieved the rebound but had no time to get off a shot, and Sandia Prep marched off with the three-point victory.
A game that had rout written all over it beforehand never quite got to that point, thanks to a Cardinal defense that held its own and forced Sandia Prep into bad shots all night. But the taller Sundevils dominated the boards and denied Robertson's offense.
And after a strong start from the free-throw line, the Cardinals missed a number of charity tosses down the stretch, finishing 21 of 36 (13 for 23 in the second half). That, acknowledged RHS head coach David Bustos, was a significant statistic.
“The free throws were key,” he said. “That and they did better rebounding. They got some easy baskets ... Sometimes you’ve got to get a lead and put some pressure on them. But I can’t fault our effort .. It was a good game, and we had our chances.”
Robertson led twice in the first quarter, 2-0 on Justin Bustos' short jumper and 12-11 after an old-fashioned three-point play by Mike Martinez with 41 seconds left in the period. And even when Prep began to take control with its prowess under the boards, the Cardinals didn’t allow things to get out of reach.
Salcido, scoring off an assist from Michael Eaton, gave Sandia Prep its first double-digit lead at 29-19 early in the third period. But Martinez came up with the next two baskets to make it 29-23. Sundevil Jake Tenorio sank the game’s only three-pointer to push the lead back to nine, but Brayfield hit a free throw and Bustos had a basket to negate that long-range shot.
Down just seven going into the final period, Robertson showed patience. The Cards oustscored their guests 13-6 to start the quarter, tying it 41-41 on a Martinez fast-break layup with 2:23 left. R.J. McNellis hit one of two free throws with one minute left to tie it again at 42-42.
But Prep showed poise and didn’t relinquish the lead.
“Right now we’re fighting the experience factor,” coach Bustos said. “Part of it is learning crunch time and how to win.”
Justin Bustos led the Cardinal scoring with 14, including 10 in the second half; Larry Romero added 10, Mike Martinez 9, Clint Brayfield 7, R.J. McNellis 2, Daryl Martinez 1.
Salcido was the high-point man for Prep with 13. William Reinickie had 12, Marcos Chavez 8, Jake Tenorio 5, Doug Passalacqua 4, Cale Glover 2, Harry Hampden-Smith 2.
Robertson plays at New Mexico Military on Saturday in Roswell, then visits the state’s top-ranked Class 3A team, Hope Christian, in Albuquerque on Monday.