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Stu Clark: Revered holiday tradition turns 60

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Tournament begins Thursday at Wilson

By Dave Kavanaugh

Northern New Mexico’s beloved holiday hoops showcase celebrates 60 years on the hardwood this year.

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The Stu Clark Tournament tips off Thursday afternoon at New Mexico Highlands’ Wilson Complex. Passes are on sale for $12 a pop. In case you didn’t find one in your Christmas stocking, you can get them at the door.

A quick look at each team, listed in order of day one’s matchups:

• • •

• Moriarty (6-5) has played a stout early schedule that includes a loss to Manzano, one of the premier clubs in Class 5A. Mike Mondragon, a coach with ties to Las Vegas, will count on senior forward Garrett Wolf and post Jake Flaming to provide a sturdy inside presence.

• St. Pius X (2-2) emphasizes ball control and good shot selection under the direction of veteran head coach Damian Segura. The Sartans are the No. 7 ranked team in Class 4A, although they lost recently to the surprising Grants Pirates.

• Capital (2-6) will be hunting its third straight Stu Clark championship, but the Jaguars have to find suitable replacements for some very good players. The Jags, who replaced Mark Senteney with former head man Ben Gomez, can grind it out, then surprise with quick cuts to the rim. Senior guard Sergio Baray is a solid all-around player.

• Central, a rare out-of-state Stu Clark entry, is looking to avenge last December’s loss to Capital in the Stu final. The Phoenix-based Bobcats will get their chance in the first round. Former Las Vegan Darren Bustos’ Bobcats are big, quick, athletic and have a good inside-outside balance. Central is off to a 6-1 start. Famoun Miller, a 6-5 forward, is among those returning for his second helping of Stu.

• West Las Vegas (2-3) has a quick rotation of guards that can shoot the ball and create transition chances with their defense. D.J. Bustos is young but poised beyond his years. Martin Castellano and Miguel Sena can hit big shots as well for David Bustos’ Dons. West will be looking to get back in the winning groove it started on. Two of the three losses have been decided by a single possession.

• Bernalillo (1-8) and head coach Terry Darnell have some rebuilding on their hands after losing a couple of strong waves of players to graduation over the last couple seasons. BHS gave 5A Rio Rancho a scare on Dec. 13, losing 84-80. Other than the hometown Cardinals and Dons, the Spartans enjoy the longest running tradition of playing in the Stu.

• Robertson (1-6) may be working out some kinks but the Cardinals are playing hard for coach Manuel Romero and have potential to surprise some people. Sebastian Gonzales is a shooter, Keith Romero a workmanlike forward and Ricardo Martinez a banger in the lane. The Cardinals led Class 4A power Española Valley by double digits on Dec. 20 before the Sundevils rallied.

• Atrisco Heritage Academy (3-1) could be one of the favorites to win the Stu based on its early record against a quality schedule — wins include Cibola and Sandia Prep. Returners from last season’s 17-10 state qualifier include senior guards Corbin Waquie, Joseph Brooks and Adrian Ortega and post Patrick Roark. The Jaguars were a preseason No. 3 pick by MaxPreps. Coach Adrian Ortega is another mentor with ties to the Meadow City.