By Sebastian Noel
For Enchantment Sports
Chemistry is a funny thing. Can you quantify it? Can you tell when a team has it? Can you win without it?
Earlier in the year Valley coach Joe Coleman, now in his 22nd year, told me, and I’m cleaning up the language, he didn’t like the way his team was playing, the team didn’t like the way he was coaching, and this wouldn’t end well.
Chemistry is stingy sometimes. It doesn’t come around until it’s best two friends, winning and confidence come along.
Beating Hope and blowing out Del Norte, two tournament teams, certainly had to help their chemistry.
Javon Baker’s continued improvement, and his teammates’ confidence in getting it inside to him, certainly had to help their chemistry.
An overtime victory over Highland in the opening round was a sign of things to come. But it was the Vikings’ win over powerhouse Hope Christian in the that maybe made both the team believe in Coleman — and Coleman believe in his kids.
The game plan was amazing, the execution was even better. Coleman spread the Huskies defense out, and slowed the pace down. After the game, surely the confidence had to be at an all-time high.
And it continued during the Vikings’ upset of fourth-seeded Silver — which entered the game 24-4 in the semifinals.
But against a top-seeded and very seasoned Los Lunas program? What they heck kind of strategy could the VIkings’ coach come up with?
Well, on championship Saturday, Coleman indeed had another game plan. And, outside of a few shaky turnovers in the end, his team executed again.
Effectively playing 4-on-4, with Derrick Chavez being often face-guarded away from the ball, the battle of the remaining eight players was won by the Vikings.
For Manny Otero’s Mustangs, something odd happened in the middle of the season: the ball started sticking.
As the teams’ Public Address Announcer, I probably watch more Mustangs basketball than anyone, and I can tell you their best starting lineup was on display during the state tournament.
With Jazmin Cordova’s return to the starting lineup because of an internal team matter, the ball moved again. Just in time.
Cordova, a starter most of last year, brings interior defense and toughness. Having watched her for three years, I can tell you this girl would take a charge from Lebron James if she had to. Her ability to catch the ball, quickly pass and cut, just made the offense flow again.
On Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena, when I talked to Volcano Vista head coach Lisa Villarreal’s longtime assistant, and brother, Ross Villarreal, he said “these things almost always end positively” in regards to the team matter that caused Cordova’s return to the starting five.
It did end positively. It took every bit of chemistry, ball movement, and teamwork to withstand a 21-0 run by Hobbs.
The first State Championship in West Mesa Girls Basketball history means Manny Otero won one as a player and coach.
Class 5A boys
“We’re not done yet.”
That’s what Adrian Ortega told Adam Diehl during his court-side interview following his win.
Presumptuous? Arrogant? Bold?
No. It was 100 percent Adrian Ortega.
More so than any team in the city, the Jaguars ooze their coache’s personality and confidence. They play with a swagger and confidence that can only be described with two words: Adrian Ortega.
They expect to win. They know how to win. They love to win. It’s been a hallmark of his teams his entire career.
I turned to my ProView camera man at the Pit and told him, “If he has a lead in the fourth those kids won’t lose. He won’t let them.”
The team chemistry is amazing. Isaiah Brooks, Marquis Crawford and Dominic Rivas showed you Saturday, this team is more than the Joziah Ramos show.
Then there is DeMarcus Sutphen. The leader. The stopper. Enemy number one.
Sutphen, like Rasheed Wallace, is the guy you hate to play against, but want on your team desperately. No one has sacrificed his offensive glory and development for the good of a team like Sutphen.
The NMHSCA Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore had to think his day would come on offense.
It didn’t. The more Ortega wanted him to defend, the more he seemed to relish and embrace that role. Over all my years, he is simply the most fun player I’ve ever watched.
He defends the best guy on the other team, he talks trash, he hacka off the opponents’ fans, and he does it all with a million-dollar smile on his face, and two state title medals around his neck.
But there is a softer side. Rewind to Atrisco’s semifinal win over Cleveland, more specifically the handshake line. As several Storm players were reduced to tears, Sutphen had an arm around everyone of them, offering words of encouragement. It was Sutphen who removed the towel from the top of Josh Tarry’s head and tilted his head up high, Tarry missed the buzzer beating three to tie. Sometimes your coach will tell you “keep your head up,” rarely will the opposition physically do it for you. Sutphen is the embodiment of the NMAA motto “Compete with Class,” and I for one, will miss covering him tremendously.
Let’s get back to Joziah Ramos. Arguably the tournament’s most outstanding player, defies logic.
Logic tells you: the 5-foot-6 kid from the West Side can’t be the best player in the state.
Logic tells you: the 5-6 kid from the West Side can’t score at will against 6-6 kids.
Sometimes, trust heart over logic, trust heart over size, and if my recap of these three teams has taught you anything: always trust chemistry. It matters. It wins. At least, it did this year.