Feature photo: Las Cruces High’s William Benjamin II (21) and Isaiah Carr (24) have helped the Bulldawgs to an 8-1 start (Russell Gurule).
By Russell Gurule
For Enchantment Sports
High school hoop fans, this week we gradually begin to see the theme of parity — which has been prevalent the last few weeks — begin to break.
Several teams have begun to emerge as serious state title contenders. Although we’re still more than two months away from the state tournament, it’s safe to say that some of these teams will be there competing for the blue trophy.
To begin last week’s recap and this week’s overview, we start with Santa Fe vs. Los Lunas. The Demons ran away with a 60-40 victory. Santa Fe is now 8-1, also having beaten rival St Michael’s.
Santa Fe joins a strong field in the Rio Rancho Holiday tournament this week.
Our next game of mention is Eldorado vs. Valley. The Eagles rose to the occasion with a 52-40 victory. Eldorado is undefeated after seven games.
Valley struggled through the weekend with another loss to La Cueva.
Both the Eagles and Vikings don’t play again until January.
Another big game had the Highland Hornets buzzing to a 68-63 victory over Rio Rancho. Highland’s 6-9 sophomore Jose Murillo had a triple-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 blocks. Highland is 4-1 entering the Rio Rancho Holiday tournament, where it could meet up again with Rams again.
The Rio Rancho tournament also includes Santa Fe, Socorro High of El Paso, Texas, Espanola Valley and Hope Christian. This event is Thursday-to-Saturday.
Cleveland made a successful trip to Las Cruces and back with victories over Centennial and Mayfield, one on the road and one at home. The Storm are 7-0 and making a strong case for being a state title contender.
Their next stop is the Hobbs Holiday tournament where host Hobbs is on the other side of the bracket. We’ll find more about the Storm after this trip.
The prestigious Hobbs tournament also includes schools from Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Artesia and Shiprock. Hobbs will be looking to get back on the winning track after a tough loss to Las Cruces High.
The tournament starts on Thursday and finishes Saturday with the championship game at 7:45 p.m.
Two Las Cruces schools are on a tear and could have a showdown this weekend; Las Cruces High (8-1) and Oñate (10-0). Oñate came away with victories last week against Silver and Carlsbad while Las Cruces had wins against Carlsbad and Hobbs by large margins.
Both schools are in the Las Cruces Public Schools Holiday Hoopla tournament, hosted by Oñate, and are on opposite sides of the bracket. If they both get to the final, it could be one of the biggest games in the state during the regular season.
The tournament starts Thursday and finishes with the championship game at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday.
Volcano Vista continued its stellar play last week with victories over West Mesa and Manzano. The Hawks are 8-0 and looking very much like the No.1 team in the state. Just like Eldorado and Valley, Volcano Vista will start up the season again after the new year with a regular season game and the upcoming Metro Championship tournament. Santa Fe Capital is 10-1 after beating rival Santa Fe. The Jags’ next big test comes at home against Cleveland on Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. This game should give us some insight into how good Capital is.
This week gives us plenty of games right after Christmas, and we should expect to see more separation from the frontrunners and the rest by Saturday. Volcano Vista, Las Cruces, Oñate, Cleveland and Santa Fe all look to be final four-material come March in the 5A state tournament.
In 4A, it’s a tight race as many teams share the same records. We’ll have a better idea by the time the Metro Championships roll around in January.
There’s plenty of great match-ups this coming weekend to end 2019 with a bang! Enjoy the holidays and Merry Christmas!
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 of tips, please email EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com