Feature photo: Get the Blue, baby! The state tournament comes to Albuquerque this week, and the goal is the blue championship trophy for every team. (Courtesy/NMAA)
By Sebastian Noel
For Enchantment Sports
Then there were eight. The previously undefeated Las Cruces Bulldawgs are not among them. Let’s focus on those teams that remain in the boys basketball state tournament. Here’s what to watch on Wednesday.
Breakfast at Dreamstyle Arena features Silver vs. Goddard in Class 4A. The Colts have been a mainstay the last few years with a solid group of kids.
The cream of that senior crop is Tristan Moore. He averages 22.8 points per game. He’s been a key contributor since he was a sophomore. He gets after it on both ends and will stand out to even the most casual fan in attendance. Question is, will he go his entire career watching Hope lift the blue trophy?
Eldorado and Santa Fe take the court next in 5A. The Demons will be without the state’s premier Division 1 bound athlete, J.B. White.
The question is, will it matter? The Demons’ plethora of fantastic guards has continued to impress, even without White. Antonio Lovato is a fantastic floor general and his running mates can catch fire from distance.
The Demons are a 5 seed, but if you could quantify chemistry and desire, they would be No. 1. Third-year coach Zack Cole has me thinking Willie Stargell and “We are family” of the MLB 1979 champion Pittsburgh Pirates. There’s something special in the air in Santa Fe these days.
Eldorado, gifted a 4 seed in my opinion, has had to rely heavily on Tyler Quintana since the season-ending injury to Kameron Valencia. Quintana has answered the bell, including 31 points in the opening round against Capital.
Do yourself a favor and get a seat close to the floor. Quintana is playing on a whole other level this final month of the season. If you get close enough, you can see the effort and desire on Quintana’s face as he tries to drag his Eagles back to the final four.
The No. 1 seed, Los Lunas, gets the Taos Tigers next in the Pit in Class 4A.
Biola University-bound Zanen Zeller is a special talent. It’s often difficult for players to shine in coach Travis Julian’s grind-it-out style, but Zeller has done just that.
Can the No. 1 seed stop the streak? Hope fans hope not.
The most must-see matchup of the day is next in 5A.
It’s not Cleveland vs. Oñate that excites me. It’s the idea of the Storm’s Aamer Muhammad guarding the Knights’ Ricky Lujan.
Muhammad, at this moment, is, in my opinion, the state’s best defender. He really shut down La Cueva’s Derek Aeilts in the first round. Lujan is probably the most underrated player in the entire state. Albuquerque fans who haven’t seen this smooth operator are in for a treat.
If Muhammad shuts down Lujan, as I suspect he will, can anyone step up for Oñate?
Another 4A battle, Hope vs. Valley, is next. Valley has a win over the Huskies already. If you went to that game, you know there is more to it than that.
Early in the second half, Hope standout Isaiah Dockery was whistled for a ridiculous technical foul. He sat. He watched. They lost. Jim Murphy’s rule prevents kids who received a technical from re-entering the game.
It’s the Huskies’ time of the year. The road to the trophy begins now.
Volcano Vista and Hobbs take the floor next in 5A.
The Hawks are big, athletic and deep. They can shoot, defend and execute. All that being said, this game could be a dog fight.
Hobbs is trending at the right time of the year. Some key guys becoming eligible late in the season has really provided a shot in the arm.
I see upset potential all over this game.
Gallup and Del Norte take the court the 6 p.m. 4A matchup nobody expected.
The NMAA probably penciled in Gallup vs. Española Valley as a sure sellout.
Third-year Del Norte coach Jeron McIntosh is no stranger to traveling to Española with a double-digit underdog squad and coming away with a victory.
His Knights did it his first year, en route to a final-four appearance. The 12th-seeded Knights did it again with an 81-74 win at fifth-seeded Española Valley on Saturday.
The casual fan will watch the Knights and scratch their heads. A ragtag group that is seemingly at its best when the game is at its worst. They just find a way to win. Especially in Española.
This is a public service announcement to all the athletic directors out there. Jeron McIntosh is the next big thing. Hire him soon. If he lands at a perennial powerhouse, look out. A dynasty will blossom.
The nightcap is Rio Rancho meeting up with their district mates, Atrisco Heritage, in a 5A nightcap.
Try not to let Wally Salata’s new hair distract you. It looks like a science project gone wrong. His team does not. The Rams could win it all.
David Patterson and Blaine Gallegos could be the most dominant tandem you see all day.
That’s if you see Gallegos. He left Saturday’s first-round game with an ankle injury.
Adrian Ortega had his Jaguars openly rooting for a rematch with Rio Rancho even prior to their opening-round win against Roswell.
They get their wish. It should be a fantastic matchup. Atrisco just seems to have “it.”
Chemistry is a funny thing. These Jags believe they can repeat.
Joziah Ramos is perhaps one of the most entertaining scorers in the state. He knows how to use his 5-foot-6 frame. If Ramos shoots 10 or more free throws, Atrisco will be in good shape.
DeMarcus Sutphen is two years removed from being named Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. No player in the state has sacrificed more of his personal development and offensive glory for the good of his team. He continues to be the best defender around, and more importantly, he cherishes that role.
If enough role players play their part, the Jaguars look very good. They play well with the lead. Thanks to coach Ortega, they believe.
Sebastian Noel does play-by-play for ProView Networks and is one of the state’s premier prep basketball experts. If you have information for Sebastian about high school sports, email him at EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com.