By Russell Gurule
The true test of New Mexico High School basketball will be conducted this Saturday by you, the fan, alumni, and every person who loves high school basketball. Each school will find out how much they learned this school year on the basketball court. Did they pay attention in class? Did they study enough for this test? Did they turn in their homework completed, and on time? Only four teams have passed all the quizzes and necessary assignments to take this test. What is their final grade going to be?
5A State Championship Game
Atrisco Heritage Academy Jaguars vs. Santa Fe High School Demons
Game time: Saturday, March 16, 8 p.m.
Where: Dreamstyle Arena (the Pit)
Santa Fe High School Demons: The Demons started out with high hopes this year with a balanced roster of upperclassmen and lowerclassmen. Led by sweet-shooting seniors Christian Kavanaugh and Antonio Lovato, the Demons have been fairly steady with fantastic wins against Cleveland and Los Lunas during the regular season.
Several promising sophomores dot the roster, the most notable being Santa Fe star JB White who stands at 6-6 with a scholarship offer from UNM Head Coach Paul Weir.
The Demons appeared to be possible title contenders come March. Unfortunately, White came down with an injury in January that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Undoubtedly, he will be ready for a great junior season. Head Coach Zack Cole never wavered as many across the state doubted whether the Demons could make a serious title run without White’s help.
The Demons found themselves in March with many contributions up and down the roster from players such as Cruz Martinez and Carlos Dassaro who have stepped up to provide the glue to make this machine go. Cody Garcia is another contributor capable of stretching the defense with his long rang bombs.
Their title run began with gut wrenching victories over Manzano, Eldorado, and No.1 seed Volcano Vista. Nothing has been easy for these Demons. Yet they need just one more victory over a Duke City school to be called champion. Santa Fe has a 24-7 overall record with a district record of 6-4.
Atrisco Heritage Academy Jaguars: The Jaguars began this season as the defending State Champions with a target on their back in the ever tough District 1 that we call Unser Road. With one of the toughest schedules in the state. The Jaguars did suffer an early season setback against previously unbeaten Las Cruces. They do however own a win over perennial power Hope Christian. Atrisco is battle tested and came on strong with a solid 5-3 record in district to enter the tournament as a true contender for back to back state titles.
This is a star studded cast full of quick active guards lead by Joziah Ramos who is making a strong case of being the best high school player in the state.
The other guards are a fine trio of Isaiah Brooks, Dominic Rivas, and Elijah Gaxiola. Each one is capable of big scoring and pressure packed defense, and long rang shooting that will break the scoreboard. The paint is held down by two unsung, and versatile players in DeMarcus Sutphen and Marquis Crawford. You could call these two stretch fours with their ability to operate outside the paint. The Jaguars are very cohesive unit with Head Coach Adrian Ortega operating as maestro on the sidelines. They’ve been in just about ever situation this year on the basketball court and have passed with flying colors. Their overall record is 21-7.
Their tournament run has been a steady domination until the semifinal were they squeaked by district rival Cleveland in overtime to earn a spot in the title game.
What to expect: A fast pace intense game with with lots of threes. Both teams love to attack the basket and kick out for three. You will see lots of ball movement around the perimeter as both teams are guard heavy. The press will be used considerably throughout the game. Joziah Ramos will be a tough match up for Santa Fe. On the other side, anybody on Santa Fe’s roster could have a big game. It’s a matter of who steps up under the bright lights. No lead will be safe until the clock is at zero. This could be a very close final that will have you on the edge of your seat. Stay tuned for a very exciting final.