STATE BASKETBALL: Cleveland and Del Norte Are Top Seeds – But Not Locks for Titles

Cleveland has the top seed for this week’s N.M. State Basketball Championships. The talented Storm include Tre Watson (1), Nate Hasberry (5), Diego Sharp (13) and Antonio Avila (Russell Gurule).
By Russell Gurule
For Enchantment Sports Fan-demonium

The prep basketball regular season ended Saturday, and now it’s time for a State Tournament unlike any other in New Mexico history.

The regular season was shortened to around 10 games and state has been shortened as well — from 16 teams to eight in each of five classes for both boys and girls.

Each district champion qualified for the tournament, with the others being selected on an at-large basis.

Already there has been controversy with Carlsbad (which went 8-3) receiving the no. 7 seed over Alamogordo (10-2) — and with La Cueva (8-2) being left out.

And now, Carlsbad is out as well.

The Cavemen had to forfeit their scheduled game against Roswell on Tuesday, due to COVID-19 issues. That moved the Coyotes into the semifinals.

Carlsbad won several games over district champions, which met the criteria for an at-large berth.

Alamogordo and La Cueva weren’t as fortunate as they consistently played everybody in their respective districts.

The NMAA said there was no discussion about replacing Carlsbad with another team. News of the forfeiture wasn’t made until Monday afternoon.

The big school boys tournament starts on Tuesday with quarterfinal games being played at various sites. The semifinals are on Thursday, also at various sites.

The championships games are slated for Saturday at the Pit. Attendance will be allowed depending on the state’s COVID-19 color-coded system set for each county.

The girls tournament and boys small schools started on Monday. To see all 10 brackets, visit

Last year, I picked three out of the four state finalists in boys 5A, including nailing eventual champion Las Cruces. This year is going to be nothing short of a gamble.

Sandia’s Ely Lovato has helped the Matadors to a 9-1 record (Russell Gurule).

So let’s roll the dice. Here’s my picks for this year’s state tournament:

5A bracket:
No. 8 Santa Fe (9-3) at No. 1 Cleveland (11-1), 7 p.m. You can never count out the Demons in the state tournament. But can they overcome the size of Cleveland?

My Pick: Cleveland

No. 5 Sandia (9-1) at No. 4 Atrisco Heritage (8-2), 6 p.m. This game has the
chance to be very memorable. We could see this one go into overtime. Both teams are evenly matched.
Atrisco may have more outside shooting which could be the difference.

My Pick: Atrisco Heritage

No. 6 Los Lunas (10-2) at No. 3 Las Cruces (12-0), 7 p.m. Los Lunas is very structured. Will it be enough to stop Las Cruces’ duo of William “Deuce” Benjamin and
Isaiah Carr?

My Pick: Las Cruces

No. 2 Roswell (9-2) advances with forfeit over No. 7 Carlsbad. Roswell has won a lot of close
games to get into this position, and now they get a 2-0 victory (official score) with the forfeit.

Carlsbad had a big win over Roswell this season, but had its season end.

My Pick: I actually would have gone with Carlsbad in an upset. That obviously doesn’t matter now.

5A Title Game:
Atrisco over Las Cruces, I am going for the upset with this pick. Atrisco has the size, speed, and, most importantly, the defense to win over last year’s state champions.

Sandia or Cleveland could easily bust my bracket early. It should be exciting.

Class 4A:
No. 8 Highland (7-3) at No. 1 Del Norte (9-1) , 7 p.m. This is a game that could
easily go into overtime. Del Norte’s guard play will be the key. This is definitely one to watch.
My Pick: Del Norte

No. 5 Kirtland Central (10-1) at No. 4 Española Valley (9-3), 5 p.m. I’m going for the upset.

Atrisco’s #33 Colby Wade with the slam (Russell Gurule).

My Pick: Kirtland Central

No. 6 Bernalillo (10-2) at No. 3 Gallup (9-1), 7 p.m. This is a pick-em. Both
have been strong all year with good wins. Bernalillo has been on a roll.

My Pick: Bernalillo

No. 7 Silver (8-3) at No. 2 Artesia (9-3), 2 p.m. Artesia has some good wins and has played some tough competition.

My Pick: Artesia

4A Title Game:
Del Norte over Bernalillo. Del Norte has solid guard play with Shane Douma-Sanchez and Judah Casaus, plus the size to be a formidable opponent for anybody.

Bernalillo will have to get past Gallup and Artesia, two very tough foes who could bust my bracket.

Be sure to check for all times and sites. They are subject to change due to COVID-19 color-coded restrictions.

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

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