By Russell Gurule
Enchantment Sports staff writer
This year’s 4A Boys State High School Basketball tournament is a unique blend of small town and city schools all vying for the blue trophy.
District champions from every corner of the state have earned the right to play in The Pit. It is beginning to shape up like an Indiana Hoosier bonanza.
Los Lunas and Hope are considered the favorites to win it all. Yet, there might be a surprise team just like the small town named “Hickory” from the movie “Hoosiers” waiting to make a mythical run.
The Los Lunas Tigers will be going for their first state title ever after many narrow misses. Will Los Lunas star Zanen Zeller finish off his stellar career on the mountain top?
Hope’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Murphy is going for an unprecedented seventh state title in a row and
17th overall to tie Hobbs’ state record in championships. Will Hope star Isiah Dockery come away a four-time champion?
There are the Taos Tigers from Northern New Mexico who appear to be peaking at the right time. Will they bring down Los Lunas’ title aspirations? Coach Hernando Chavez will have his Tigers ready.
Silver from Western New Mexico brings Western New Mexico bound Tristin Moore, one of the best players in the state; will he play the role of Jimmy Chitwood, Hickory’s best player?
Or does that role belong to Del Norte’s Malik Barton?
Will Roswell Goddard play the role of Hickory with nothing to lose? Coach Anthony Mestas will
have his team ready for the chance.
How about Gallup, who already owns a win over Los Lunas? Will the Bengals get the chance to try again? 10-0 in their district is nothing to sneeze at.
Will Valley cut short Hope’s title run? The Vikings have the size and talent to make it possible. Plus, the Vikings have coach Joe Coleman guiding the ship.
Del Norte just may be the one to play the role of Hickory in this tournament. Wins over several 5A
schools have given this group the confidence needed for a mythical run.
Coach Jeron McIntosh likes the Knights’ chances.
“I’m pretty happy with where we have gone and what we have accomplished so far,” he said. “Our kids have really worked hard, and it feels like we are transitioning from being a program that is hoping to win games to a program expecting to win games. This has helped because we have been able to raise our goals to winning a state championship.”But to really get an idea of how the 4A State Tournament will play out. Just ask the coaches.
McIntosh: “I would say that in 4A, we are all chasing Los Lunas and Hope because they are very talented, well coached, and have a tradition of winning. The rest of us aren’t far behind though; I would say that us, Valley, and Gallup all have tough and gritty kids that have played tough schedules which have gotten us all better throughout the year. Silver, Taos, and Goddard are all champions of their district, so they’re coming in on a nice roll and playing with a lot of confidence.”
Los Lunas coach Travis Julian: “I have a great deal of respect for the sport of boys basketball in this state. I feel that it is the toughest sport to coach in the sense of the quality of coaches and the parity that exists. There are a lot of coaches and players in this state who devote a lot of time and effort to be successful, and there are a lot of communities who are very passionate about the game. The field this year is outstanding. Hope has an outstanding player in Isiah Dockery and of course a Hall of Fame coach in Jim Murphy.
“Gallup is a team that plays with really good effort and an intense young coach in Josh Dunlap. Silver has one of the best players in the state in Tristen Moore and a well-respected coach in Brandon Siqueiros. Goddard is experienced, and coach Mestas does a really good job with that program. Valley has good talent and is always prepared under Joe Coleman. Del Norte has a very talented player in Malik Barton and a bright young coach in Jeron McIntosh. Taos is playing really well right now. They seem to
have improved every time I see them, which is a compliment to coach Hernando Chavez and his staff.”
Hope Christian coach Jim Murphy: “I believe the 4A field is wide open. Our district was extremely competitive with five teams making the tournament — Bernalillo, Valley, Del Norte, Highland and Hope. After the first weekend cutting the field from 16 to eight, I believe there are some really good teams left.
“We play Valley that has a lot of talent and should be a good game. Silver and Goddard are both district champs and are on our side of the bracket. Then on the other side, Los Lunas who comes in as a No. 1 seed and Gallup as the No. 4 seed have already split with each other. Del Norte shoots the ball really well, and Taos, who was in our tournament in January, has both size and quickness. It should be fun and
Wednesday, the plot thickens in the movie we call the “4A State Tournament.” Buses are warming up
all over New Mexico as they are getting ready to converge on Albuquerque to audition for the role of
state champion. Grab some popcorn and get comfy. This movie has all the ingredients to make a classic.
The Madness Marches on.
Russell Gurule was born and raised in Albuquerque and is a long-time resident. He graduated from Highland High and also attended Hope Christian. Russell is a long-time observer of New Mexico Lobo and high school athletics. Logistics is his day job. Basketball and politics are his passions. To contact Russell with comments or tips, please email EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com.