Stu Clark Tourney opens Monday

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By Dave Kavanaugh

For more than half a century, the Stu Clark Tournament has carved out a place for itself among the most cherished northern New Mexico holiday traditions. The anticipated annual boys’ basketball event enters year 55 today, with the first session tipping off at 1 p.m. at New Mexico Highlands University’s Wilson Complex.


This year’s addition of Class 5A contender Rio Grande highlights the changes in the tournament field. The Ravens, coached by Wally Salata, are 5-3 to date against their usual top-shelf schedule. They play Terry Darnell’s Bernalillo Spartans, a Stu Clark regular, at 1 p.m. to open the proceedings. Bernalillo, a team from Class 4A, put up a good showing in Capital’s recent tourney, taking third place.


At 3 p.m., another marquee program — defending Class 4A state champion St. Pius X, who rejoined the Stu lineup last December — hits the hardwood looking for a second-straight trophy. Standing in the Sartans’ way is an improved Artesia team. Ike Montoya’s Bulldogs, another Class 4A program, are off to one of their best starts.


As usual, day one’s evening session features Las Vegas’ own hoopsters. Robertson, a young group now under the tutelage of former West Las Vegas and Pecos mentor David Bustos, plays Shiprock at 6 p.m. And in the 8 p.m. nightcap, West Las Vegas and new head coach Morgan Montaño go up against Portales. These teams last met in the 2008 state tournament, with the Dons advancing in their run to the Class 3A title game.


Tickets, which have been available from several local merchants, school athletic offices and Stu Clark committee members, now will be sold at the door.


For a preview of the tourney, see this past Friday’s print version of the Optic.


Look in the online version of the Optic this week for nightly updates.