By Jeff MatthewsFor the Las Cruces Bulletin
February madness will precede March madness in high school boys basketball district showdowns.
A logjam that’s hard to avoid with only an eight-game regular season gives four of the five Las Cruces high school teams a legitimate shot for a regular season District 3-5A championship.
Gadsden and Alamogordo high schools enjoy the upper hand at 3-1. Alamogordo beat Gadsden Tuesday, Feb. 4, in the Tiger Pit 58-37, giving the Panthers their lone loss of the first half of the season. A Gadsden win would’ve put the Panthers in the driver’s seat.
Neither the Las Cruces High School Bulldawgs nor the Mayfield High School Trojans will enjoy the driver’s seat, but they will have a chance with a hot run at the right time.
Th eBulldawgsandTrojansareboth2-2. The Bulldawgs have wins over city rivals Mayfield and Oņate High School. The loss that stings for the moment for the Bulldawgs is the district opener against Alamogordo at home without their lone returner from the state championship team a year ago. Senior J.T. Romney sat out with an ankle injury.
Las Cruces gets another shot at Alamogordo Friday, Feb. 7, and will not be shorthanded this time. Romney has returned to the lineup forWilliam Benjamin’s club, giving the Bulldawgs more height and experience to battle the Tigers on the road.
Mayfield is also 2-2 after thumping Oņate 74-47 at the Castle on Tuesday Feb. 4. The win completed a first half comeback featuring back to back wins to get back in the race. Senior guard Isaac Rivera led the Trojans over the Knights with 26 points, 21 after intermission. The Trojans had a long week with an 0-2 start in district, having lost to Gadsden at home and Las Cruces on the road, a game in which Rivera didn’t score a point while fouling out with virtually no court time in the game.
“(Rivera) has a lot of talent,” said Mayfield head coach Tommy Morrow. “He forced a little too much (against Las Cruces). The Las Cruces game was a total train wreck.”
The Bulldawgs beat the Trojans 55-41 in round 1.
Mayfield bounced back from the loss to Cruces and the 0-2 start with a thrilling twopoint upset win over Alamogordo Jan. 31. The Trojans were shorthanded, playing without starting point guard Josh Luevano, who was sitting out after being ejected with two technical fouls against Las Cruces.
“Our whole season turned around with that Alamogordo win,” Morrow said. “With Luevano not being able to play, with having to start a freshman who held the fort there and getting a big night from everyone defensively.”
Rivera hit two free throws with 2.4 secondsleft to play to help the Trojans to the 54-52 win over the Tigers.
The only team out of the regular season race is Oņate. The Knights have been playing without head coach Saul Perez while he mends from hospitalization that’s kept him from being able to work with the team. The Knights are looking to gain some confidence in the second half of the district race and make some noise come tournament time at the end of the month.
Centennial High School competes in District 3-4A and will battle for a district championship. It looks like a two-horse race between Centennial and Deming for the district championship in the 4A district.
LCHS is 1-3 at home, while being 3-1 on the road and 4-2 on neutral courts.
4A Centennial is 9-8. The Hawks have won three of their last four games, all on the road, defeating Loretto Academy (62-38), Manzano High School (57-44) and Atrisco Heritage (4435), while losing to Mayfield (68-40). CHS is ranked 14th in the 4A standings.