Feature photo: Atrisco’s Elijah Gaxiola, left, and the Jaguars are unbeaten in rugged District 1-5A (Russell Gurule/Enchantment Sports).
By Sebastian Noel
Seeding and selection for the state basketball tournament is less than a month away and the storylines are as interesting as ever.
After a turbulent non-district season, Atrisco Heritage Academy (15-6, 5-0), is in absolute control of District 1-5A. Not only are the Jags unbeaten in the league, they are the only ones with a winning district record.
Barring three straight losses, they are the district champs. Let me go out on a limb, they are the district champs.
So I will go back to 4A’s ultra entertaining District 6. Del Norte (12-8) and Valley (14-6) both swept their district opponents last week, setting up a battle for first place, Tuesday at Del Norte at 7 p.m.
On paper, Valley has no business losing to a team like Del Norte. The game isn’t played on paper, and coach Jeron McIntosh has his Knights on a roll again.
Valley has everything a coach would want: a fantastic post player in Jevon Baker, a sharpshooter in Derick Chavez, a point guard that looks to pass first, but can break you down off the dribble in Seyi Oyeku, and two role players who do everything else needed very well in Gio Casaus and Adam Giron.
Del Norte does things that make any coach scratch their head: the Knights take questionable shots, they lack size, and at times they play out of control.
But what they lack in “polish,” they make up in heart and hustle. No one plays harder. McIntosh demands it. If you don’t defend and you don’t play hard, you sit.
The Knights always come together at this time of the year. Familiar faces like Malik Barton and David Flores have been through the battles. Freshman Shane Douma-Sanchez might flourish into one of the state’s premiere offensive guards. And mark my words, his freshman classmate, Judah Casaus, will become one of the best defenders in the state.
Can you say DeMarcus Sutphen 2.0? Casaus has that potential.
Highland (11-8) and Hope (12-10) are tied at 3-3 behind the aforementioned teams, who are both 5-1.
Rivalry games headline the remainder of the upcoming week.
Hobbs (16-7) is at Clovis (16-7) on Friday night. A game you can watch, as ProView Networks will be at that game.
As has been the case in the last several years, Oñate is the only test on Las Cruces’ district schedule. The Knights are ranked seventh on Max Preps. The rest of the district is ranked 16th, 17th, 18th, 23rd and 24th.
Oñate vs. Las Cruces is always a noteworthy game because as you recall, last year’s 28-0 Las Cruces team was eliminated in the first round, by 15th seeded Oñate.
Back in Albuquerque, Friday night also features: Eldorado (17-3) vs. La Cueva (11-8) and Atrisco Heritage vs. Cleveland (19-3).
Cleveland will have an interesting seed this year because of its struggles in district play. A district that features Max Preps 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 14th and 15th ranked teams.
If history is any indication the Atrisco vs. Cleveland game may be the game of the week. Joziah Ramos buzzer beater? I could see it happening.
I’ve seen it before.
Sebastian Noel is a play-by-play announcer for ProView Networks and host of “Local Focus w/ Sebastian Noel,” airing weeknights at 10 p.m., on ProView. Noel, also serves as the on-field reporter during the My50TV game of the week during the football season and is a frequent contributor to Enchantment Sports.