Madness on: State hoops begins

-A A +A
By Dave Kavanaugh

Hoop dreams for eight Las Vegas-area high school teams begin in earnest this weekend with first-round state tournament games across New Mexico.

Friday is ladies’ night, as girls’ basketball teams play at various campus sites.

Lady Cardinals
In Class 3A girls’ hoops, Rick Armijo’s Robertson Lady Cardinals (11-14) earned a No. 8 seed and host No. 9 Socorro.

Robertson owns a regular-season win over the Lady Warriors (15-12), having prevailed 68-55 on Feb. 12 at Mike Marr Gym.

In their last game, a shorthanded Lady Cards team lost to West Las Vegas 99-60, eliminating Robertson from the district tournament.

Abbey Bradley and Kendra Montoya have led a deep RHS backcourt.

Lady Dons
West Las Vegas’ Lady Dons (17-12) and coach Jose Medina drew the No. 13 seed and travel to No. 4 Shiprock, a team they haven’t played this season.

West started the season well, rising through the top 10 in the polls. But then the team fell into an ill-timed slump during the district schedule, winding up as the bottom seed in the 2-3A tourney.

Then the Lady Dons came to life, getting a nice boost from guard Deanna Bustos to aid the dependable frontcourt in time for a hot run through the district tournament. They won three road games in four nights and narrowly lost to top-seeded Taos in overtime in the final.

Mora’s girls earned a No. 4 seed — head coach Mark Cassidy said he’d hoped for as high as a two or three — and host No. 13 Rehoboth Christian.

The Rangerettes (25-2) swept through their district schedule and the 2-2A tournament, finishing with a 58-29 rout of Santa Fe Prep.

For Cassidy, it’s a fourth 20-plus-win season. He’s hoping this group can make a deep run and perhaps battle for the program’s first state title since he led them all the way in 1998.

Cassidy lists Laguna-Acoma, Texico and Tularosa as the teams to beat. But he says the focus this week is on Rehoboth (13-13), a team the Rangerettes haven’t played in 2012-13.

“Everybody’s 0-0,” he said.

• • •

On Saturday, it’s the boys’ turn in the spotlight.

Robertson and coach Manuel Romero are the No. 10 seed and visit No. 7 Silver.

The host Colts hope to repeat their previous win over RHS, 59-36 back in January at a St. Mike’s tournament.

The Cardinals have fared well in what had been thought by some to be a building season.

The frontcourt duo of Ryan Tafoya and Joseph Mascareñas has been prolific in scoring and rebounding, and the guards and bench have exceeded expectations.

The Cards were one Tafoya three-pointer and change away from the district tournament final, falling to Taos 61-58 on Feb. 28.

West Las Vegas (9-18) and Ernie Rodriguez are the No. 12 seed and travel to No. 5 Portales.

The Rams defeated the Dons 71-60 back on Jan. 12 in the Portales Shootout.

West, led by forward Joe Ortiz and wing D.J. Bustos, have made strides from the beginning of the year and are playing a more complete game these days. Their most recent game was a 64-59 loss to Robertson in the second game of the district tournament.

The Pecos Panthers (25-2), coached by Russ Gilmore, have been ranked either first or second in Class 2A most of the season. The No. 2 seed in the division, Pecos will host No. 15 New Mexico Military on Saturday.  Pecos beat Mora 93-51 in the District 2-2A boys’ championship Saturday at Sanchez Gym.

Gilmore, who rose to fame coaching Hobbs to the championship, has taken a good program and made it a legitimate title contender.

Mora’s Rangers, runners-up to Pecos in District 2-2A, are the No. 9 seed and visit No. 8 Santa Rosa.

The Lions won 72-57 in their only previous meeting this season, back in December.

James Branch and company have been a top 10 team much of the season.

Defending Class B state champion Wagon Mound won’t have an easy road to repeating, not after losing several seniors from last year’s squad.

But Bobby Clouthier has the Trojans (17-7) thinking about another deep run beginning in Bernalillo.