Photo: Coach Greg Brown, lower far right, and Volcano Vista edged past Atrisco Heritage on Saturday to advance in the Class 5 state tournament (Russell Gurule).
By Russell Gurule
For Enchantment Sports
If the opening round of the boys state basketball tournament is any indication, we are in for quite a week in the Pit.
First a quick review, and then some picks.
The battle between District 1-5A rivals lived up to the hype, with Volcano Vista (20-8) and Atrisco Heritage (17-9) going down to the wire. Volcano Vista moves on to the
quarter-final with a 53-51 victory.
For Atrisco Heritage, it marks the end of its two-year run as state champion.
Eldorado (23-5) took the trip to Ralph Tasker Arena in Hobbs (18-10), and came away with a 92-88 victory in OT.
In 4A, Del Norte (15-12) defeated Los Lunas (17-11) in what would be considered a minor upset. Valencia (18-12) took a 64-61 win against Taos (21-8) 64-61 and now faces top-seeded Valley.
All 5A and 4A games will now be played at Dreamstyle Arena starting on Wednesday.
In 5A, there are four dream match-ups that could go either way. It wouldn’t be surprising to see any one of the eight teams left in the field in the championship game.
No. 1 Las Cruces High (26-3) plays No. 8 Clovis (21-8) at 9:45 a.m. This game could be a potential upset given the fact that Clovis has been very competitive with top teams in the state while Las Cruces brings a wealth of talent and consistent play.
My pick: Las Cruces
No. 12 Volcano Vista (20-8) plays No. 4 Las Cruces Oñate (26-4) at 4:45 p.m. Volcano Vista has the chance to play spoiler to a potential Oñate and Las Cruces High match-up.
Volcano Vista overcame the big hurdle of Atrisco and may be ready to face this challenge.
My pick: Volcano Vista
No. 3 Santa Fe (23-5) plays No. 6 Cleveland (25-4) at 8:15 p.m. Cleveland has been battle tested all year and looks to be peaking at the right time. Santa Fe will need to shoot very well from the outside to win.
My pick: Cleveland
No. 10 Eldorado (23-5) plays No. 2 Capital (26-4) at 1:15 p.m.
Eldorado faced adversity this weekend with coach Roy Sanchez being suspended for the game due to his ejection in the district title contest a week earlier.
The Eagles came out with flying colors. Capital is well coached and has been solid all year. This game could be a classic.
My pick: Eldorado
In 4A, the tournament bracket shapes up to be a potential District 6 showdown as it has four teams — Valley, Hope, Del Norte and Highland — still alive. But this could also be Gallup’s coming out party.
No. 1 Valley (19-7) plays No. 9 Valencia at 3 p.m. This game will be a formidable challenge for Valencia. Valley is the defending state champion and looks to repeat.
My pick: Valley
No. 5 Hope Christian (16-12) plays No. 4 Artesia (19-9) at 8 a.m. This could be a very physical game. This could be a tight game from start to finish.
My pick: Hope Christian
No. 3 Highland (19-10) plays No. 11 Del Norte (15-12) at 11:30 a.m. Both teams are playing really well. This will be a showdown, it will be a matter of who blinks first.
My pick: Highland
No. 7 Española Valley (18-9) plays No. 2 Gallup (24-5) at 6:30 p.m. All Gallup does is win, but you can’t count out Española Valley. This should be interesting.
My pick: Gallup
So, who will win it all?
In 5A, Las Cruces entered the state tournament unbeaten last year but didn’t even make it to the Pit.
This year, the Bulldawgs entered the event with the No. 1 seed — and will leave with it.
Title game pick: Las Cruces over Eldorado
In 4A, Highland has been playing on another level for the past three weeks — and it’s one high level.
The Hornets are on an eight-game winning streak, and I see them making it 11 straight.
Title game pick: Highland over Hope Christian
HOTEL HELP: If you’re coming to Albuquerque for the tournament and looking for a room, the newly renovated GreenTree Inn has a special rate of $59 (one or two people), $64 (three people) and $69 (four people) this week. The hotel offers:
• Complimentary hot breakfast buffet with waffles, eggs & sausage
• Seasonal outdoor pool (May-October) with BBQ area
• Complimentary WIFI throughout the hotel
• Business center with computer & printer
• Complimentary parking with large lot for buses
• Brand new LED lighting around building and parking lot
• 24-hour desk staff
Call Michelle Dressler at 505-828-1600 to book your room. Click here for more information on GreenTree Inn.
If you can’t make it to the state tournament in person, you can still watch the games live by streaming on the NFHS Network for a fee.
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