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State tournament brackets set

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By Dave Kavanaugh

Deliberations on the various state high school basketball tournament brackets consumed the better part of Sunday, as seeding committee members debated the most important rankings of hoops season — the  ones that decide who makes state and who plays whom in the tournaments that begin this weekend.

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The announcement of the New Mexico Activities Association’s seedings, which trickled out one bracket at a time Sunday afternoon, did not go by without some controversy.

Locally, for example, Mora boys’ coach James Branch questioned why his Rangers — rated among the top eight most of the season — were saddled with a No. 9 seed, requiring them to travel to No. 8 Santa Rosa this Saturday.

Branch said his team “seemed to get penalized for losing to (Pecos),” a senior-laden squad ranked first or second in Class 2A all season. Of the Rangers’ 10 losses, five came against the rival Panthers.

That placement was also questioned during ProView Networks’ live Web cast Sunday, a selection show that featured — among others — Las Vegas sportscaster (and former coach) Richard Tripp, bloggers and members of the media.

Some fans also wondered aloud via social media about the relatively low seeding of the West Las Vegas girls’ team, which wound up a No. 13, in spite of a strong run through the District 2-3A tournament that ended in overtime at regular-season champ Taos (a No. 5 seed at state).

In those cases, as well as others involving other teams, a frequent argument points to discrepancies between a school’s ranking in regular-season polls and the school’s seeding in the state tourney.

The NMAA committees charged with state selection and seeding, however, operate facing more considerations than merely the polls. One guideline stipulates that teams from the same district be seeded in the order in which they finished in the district standings. Efforts are made to avoid pitting members of the same district against one another in the first round. Other factors also play into the seeding process, making for occasional logistical dilemmas. Thus, the state seedings more often than not do not mirror any particular poll result.

Regardless of any dispute or dissent about where exactly they were seeded, area schools are well-represented in this year’s tournaments.

The aforementioned Pecos Panthers, coached by Russ Gilmore, are the No. 2 seed in the Class 2A boys’ field and will host No. 15 New Mexico Military on Saturday. Pecos beat Mora 93-51 in the District 2-2A boys’ championship game Saturday at Sanchez Gym.

Branch’s Rangers are No. 9 and visit No. 8 Santa Rosa, also Saturday.

In Class 2A girls’ basketball, Mark Cassidy’s Mora Rangerettes are the No. 4 seed and host No. 13 Rehoboth on Friday.

In Class 3A girls’ hoops, Rick Armijo’s Robertson Lady Cardinals earned a No. 8 seed and host No. 9 Socorro on Friday.

Also Friday, West Las Vegas’ Lady Dons and coach Jose Medina drew the No. 13 seed and travel to No. 4 Shiprock.

In Class 3A boys’ tourney play, both local teams find themselves opening on the road Saturday. Robertson and coach Manuel Romero are the No. 10 seed and visit No. 7 Silver.

West Las Vegas and Ernie Rodriguez are the No. 12 seed and trek to No. 5 Portales.