State Basketball Tournament 2022: Are Cruces and Volcano destined to meet?

Las Cruces coach William Benjamin has led the Bulldawgs to an unbeaten record heading into the state tournament (Russell Gurule).

By Russell Gurule
For Enchantment Sports Fan Demon-ium

It is time.

The time when many high school student-athletes have a chance at living the dream.
Or possibly heartbreak.

Yes, it’s time for New Mexico’s state high school basketball tournament.

This year has given us a full season compared to last year’s shortened compromise season during the pandemic.

The tournament has 16 teams with 16 seeds in each classification. It begins at home sites Saturday March 5 and the quarterfinals will also be at home site next week before the semifinals and finals move to the Pit.

Home sites are determined by the higher seeds.

The boys championship games are Saturday March 12 at The Pit.

Many questions abound in 4A and 5A boys basketball: Will Las Cruces stay undefeated and complete the revenge tour?

Will the Volcano Vista boys and girls stay undefeated and bring home title without ever experiencing the bitter taste of defeat?

Will Highland finally get over the top, or will it be Española Valley or Taos?

Here are my picks for 4A and 5A boys basketball.

5A Boys first round:

No. 1 Las Cruces (28-0) plays No.16 Albuquerque High (11-15) at 4 p.m. at Las Cruces.
The Bulldawgs of Las Cruces will be too much for the Bulldogs of Albuquerque.

Players to watch: Las Cruces High’s William “Deuce” Benjamin and Isaiah Carr; Albuquerque’s Marquez King
My Pick: Las Cruces

No. 9 Sandia (17-9) at No. 8 Santa Fe (22-5) at 7 p.m.
The Demons will have a big crowd along with a ferocious press.

Players to watch: Sandia’s Sean Johnson and Santa Fe’s Paul Lovato
My Pick: Santa Fe

No. 12 Eldorado (13-14) at No. 5 Atrisco Heritage Academy (18-8), 6 p.m.
Both teams are struggling.

Players to watch: Atrisco’s Colby Wade; Eldorado’s Caileb Parham
My Pick: Atrisco Heritage

No. 13 Farmington (20-8) at No. 4 Hobbs (25-2) at 6 p.m.
Farmington has to make a long trip, and Hobbs is 11-1 at home.

Players to watch: Hobbs Jalen Goar; Farmington’s Cody Vassar-Steen
My Pick: Hobbs

No. 14 West Mesa (11-14) is at No. 3 La Cueva (22-3) at 6 p.m.
La Cueva has the chance to avenge a late season loss — and to get to the title game.

Players to watch: La Cueva’s Exodus Ayers; West Mesa’s Ty Barlow
My Pick: La Cueva

No. 11 Cleveland (13-15) at No. 6 Los Lunas (20-8) at 6 p.m.
Cleveland may be the underdog. Yet, I’m feeling a run from them.

Players to watch: Los Lunas’ Jalin Holland; Cleveland’s Daniel Steverson
My Pick: Cleveland

No. 10 Carlsbad (22-6) at No. 7 Rio Rancho (16-10) at 6 p.m.
Could this be Carlsbad’s Damian Perez’s coming out party?

Players to watch: Rio Rancho’s Keagan Caton; Carlsbad’s Perez
My Pick: Carlsbad

No. 15 Organ Mountain (15-14) at No. 2 Volcano Vista (25-0) at 6 p.m.
Volcano Vista continues the undefeated season.

Players to watch: Volcano Vista’s Ja’Kwon Hill; Organ Mountain’s Brandon Kehres.
My Pick: Volcano Vista

4A Boys first round:

No. 1 Highland (22-3) plays No. 16 Miyamura (14-14) at 7 p.m. at Highland.
The Hornets should be able to continue their winning ways.

Players to watch: Highland’s Jose Murillo and Alexis Dominguez.
My Pick: Highland

No 9 Lovington (20-8) at No. 8 Artesia (16-11) at 6 p.m.
Artesia is peaking at the right time. This game should be a close one.

Players to watch: Artesia’s Nick Sanchez; Lovington’s Tayten Hilliard.
My Pick: Artesia

No. 12 Goddard (15-13) at No. 5 Albuquerque Academy (17-7) at 5 p.m.
This match-up is a toss up. Goddard has been in many tight games this season.
Players to watch: Goddard’s Noah Reese; Academy’s Kellan Gehres.
My Pick: Goddard

No. 13 Valley (12-13) at No. 4 St. Pius X (17-8) at 6 p.m.
This is another toss up game. Valley has a patient offense which gives them a chance in any game.
Players to watch: St. Pius’s Brian Kalb, Valley’s Isaac Tapia
My Pick: Valley

No. 14 Los Alamos (15-12) at No. 3 Española Valley (20-7) at 6 p.m.
The Sun Devils of Española Valley have been steady all season, winning against a number of top teams.
Players to watch: Española Valley’s Marin Rodriguez; Los Alamos’ Niko Garcia.
My Pick: Española Valley

No. 11 Del Norte (12-14) at No. 6 Silver (25-2) at 4 p.m.
Silver is a very interesting team with many wins against Arizona teams. But Del Norte is dangerous when everything is working.
Players to watch: Del Norte’s Shane Douma-Sanchez and Judah Casaus.
My Pick: Del Norte

No. 10 Gallup (16-12) at No. 7 Belen (16-11) at 5 p.m.
Belen has the size, and if it is shooting well from outside, it has the advantage. But it will be close.
Players to watch: Belen’s Daniel Corrales; Gallup’s Khohanon Atazhoon.
My Pick: Belen

No. 15 Hope Christian (15-14) at No. 2 Taos (21-6) at 6 p.m.
Despite the seeds, I think this will be a close game. Both teams are well coached. Taos may just have a little more to get over the hump.
Players to watch: Taos’ Daemon Ely; Hope’s Jett Wycoff.
My Pick: Taos

What will we see next week in the Pit?

I’m going with Las Cruces to meet Hobbs in one semifinal, in what could be an epic game.
In the other semifinal, I see defending state champion Cleveland taking on Volcano Vista.

I see the title game being a classic between two unbeatens — Las Cruces and Volcano Vista.
The champion: Las Cruces.

In 4A, I’m predicting Highland to face off against surprise — Valley!
In the other semi-final, I have what potentially could be one of the best games in the tournament: Española Valley vs. Taos.

For the championship I have Española Valley against Highland in a must see game.
My pick for 4A state champion is the Highland Hornets!

Let the madness begins.

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