Stu Clark tourney under way

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By Dave Kavanaugh

An annual holiday treat for more than half a century, the 56th annual Stu Clark Tournament is tipping off today at the Wilson Complex.

Tickets and tourney passes are available at the door and from various local merchants.

In the opening session (1 and 3 p.m.), Stu Clark newcomer Del Norte takes on St. Pius X, and Artesia meets Portales.

Day one’s evening session features West Las Vegas vs. Shiprock at 6 p.m., followed by Robertson vs. Bernalillo at 8.

Monday winners play in the evening session on Tuesday; losers in the afternoon session.

Robertson is the No. 5 team in Class 3A and riding the momentum of a strong start that has included victories against Taos and Ruidoso. Driven by good perimeter shooting and defense, the team is one of the most improved in 3A.

West Las Vegas rated ninth in the same poll. Coach Morgan Montaño’s Dons are coming off their second win, a 63-58 win over Ruidoso. A young team in terms of varsity experience, West has a guard-heavy offense with several players capable of scoring.

Artesia, coached by Isidro Montoya, is the sixth-rated team in Class 4A boys’ hoops, according to the Dec. 16 NMHSCA poll. The Bulldogs have won big over Deming and Dexter and played Ruidoso close before losing Dec. 18.

Bernalillo and coach Terry Darnell are a Stu Clark regular looking to gain momentum after picking up the season’s first win, a 68-54 triumph over West Las Vegas in the seventh-place game of the Al Armendariz Classic on Dec. 19 in Santa Fe. The 4A Spartans have had a tough schedule that has included 3A’s top dog, Hope Christian.

Likewise, Del Norte and coach Gerome Espinoza have had a rigorous stretch with games against the likes of La Cueva, Eldorado and Albuquerque High. The battle-hardened Knights, who played Belen and Class 3A No. 2 team Sandia Prep close, are making their Stu Clark debut.

Portales and coach Mark Gallegos were unofficially 11th in the latest Class 3A poll. The Rams, who run a ball-control, half-court offense, are coming off a recent split of games against West Texas schools Friona and Muleshoe.

Coach Cliff Johns’ Shiprock Chieftains have proven capable of playing tough in the clutch. One-point wins over Kirtland Central and Wingate have been a boost to the senior-loaded team.

St. Pius X is unofficially the No. 11 team in Class 4A behind Capital and Santa Teresa. The Sartans are coached by Damian Segura; this year’s resume includes a win over Sandia Prep and a 66-65 thriller against Albuquerque High.