Jesse Estrada’s plunge into the end zone before his spirited hometown crowd not only gave the Class 3A North All-Star football team the lead in Saturday night’s game, it helped punctuate another successful week of North-South festivities hosted by Las Vegas.
For the sixth straight year, the Meadow City has served as host of the Class 3A football and boys’ and girls’ basketball all-star showdowns.
The North won two of the three contests this time around — the girls’ hoops game on Friday and the gridiron clash. However, the South emerged with an upset in boys’ basketball.
Football: North 27, South 7
Early on, the game seemed a replica of last year’s version — a defensive battle eventually decided by an extra-point play.
Then with less than 12 minutes left in the second quarter, a long pass play by Mark Manning of St. Michael’s set the North up a couple yards from the South end zone. Estrada, following a gritty block, punched the ball in from there. The 5-6 Robertson grad, who built a reputation for hard work during his time in the Cardinal backfield, celebrated with one of his linemen, Carlos Sandoval, another RHS standout.
The North struck twice more before halftime; Raton’s Gabe Olivas hauled in a pass from Manning — another display of District 2-3A teamwork — and the team enjoyed a 20-0 cushion.
Defense largely dictated action in the second half; the rivals traded touchdowns but neither could sustain any other drives.
North 89, South 72
The South got off to an early lead but the North chipped away; Marcelita Povijua, the diminutive but relentless Santa Fe Indian School standout guard, shot her team in front a couple of times. A bucket by West Las Vegas grad Cassandra Coca tied the game at 42 all to end the first half. After intermission the North began to pull away, attacking the lane in the second half, with St. Michael’s forward Marissa Peterson providing consistency inside and Povijua leading from the perimeter. Despite a lack of ball rotation and plenty of shoot-first, maybe-think-about passing-later drives, the North’s aggressiveness paid off with multiple trips to the free throw line, and the team hit most of its charity tosses.
Povijua led all scorers with 30 points; Peterson notched 20. Roxie Boone, the Zuni sharpshooter who won Wednesday’s girls’ three-point shootout, finished with 9, as did Pojoaque’s Andrea Cruz.
Las Vegans Coca (WLV), Ruthie Trujillo (RHS) and Alyssa Abreu all played in the game. Coca had 5 points and Trujillo 1.
Dexter’s Krystal Banda paced the South with 17.
South 91, North 83
The highly touted North developed a small cushion by the end of the opening half, led by the unlikely tag-team of West’s Kenny Lucero and Pojoaque’s Ryan Gonzalez, each representing a finalist in March’s state championship game. Still, the South was all business and stayed within striking distance. Lovington’s Courtney Mackey and lanky, energetic Sandia Prepster Dale Minschwaner countered the athletic North lineup. A couple of timely outside shots by ex-Don Brandon Encinias served to keep the boys in blue at bay early in the second period, too. Foul trouble eventually sidelined Gonzalez and Erik Geyer (St. Mike’s) from the North and Minschwaner from the South. Down the stretch, disparate foul shooting gave edge to the South, which tied the game at 82-82 with 1:58 to go. Two free throws apiece by Demarcus Doucette (New Mexico Military) and Lance Smith (Lovington) put the South ahead for good as the North squandered a couple of late opportunities. Accompanied by a gusty chant of “Dirty South” from the blue cheering section at Wilson Complex, the South trotted off the court with a delicious upset.
Each side boasted five players in double figures. Mackey’s 23 points was a game high, and fellow southerners Minschwaner (16), Doucette (13), Antonio Carrejo (11) and Smith (11) also hit doubles.
Lucero, whose stellar All-Star week included finals appearances in the three-point shootout and slam dunk competition, tallied a team-best 17 for the norteos. He collected MVP honors for the North side. Fellow Don alumnus Encinias scored 15, Gonzalez 14, Robertson’s Jose Maestas 13 and Geyer 11.