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Former Tri-Cities tourney foes may clash again

December 24, 2018

As we hit the home stretch for all of the regular season basketball tournaments, a familiar name is missing — the Tri-Cities Tournament.

For the previous 23 years, the towns of Mora, Pecos and Santa Rosa exchanged hosting responsibilities tournament. It was considered one of the top small-school tournaments of the season, in part because of the strength of the three host schools. And it attracted plenty of strong small-school teams from the North.

However, the tournament came to an end after 2017 in Santa Rosa. Pecos head coach Ira Harge Jr. said there was a clause in the tournament bylaws that stated that if two of the three teams decided to opt out of the Tri-Cities format, it would end.

Harge said he did not know which schools opted out, but in a bit of irony, they all ended up this year in the same tournament — the Stu Clark Tournament at New Mexico Highlands University.

Pecos takes on Taos in Thursday’s opening round at 3 p.m., while Santa Rosa faces Las Vegas Robertson in the 6 p.m. game. The evening ends with Mora and West Las Vegas playing for the second time in eight days.

“I loved the Tri-Cities because there were a lot of good teams in there,” Harge said. “I would definitely say we are in another good tournament.”

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This is turning into a banner year for boys basketball for the “Big Three” Santa Fe schools.Santa Fe High, St. Michael’s and Capital are a combined 23-5, the best mark they have combined for since the 2005-06 season (19-8 by the Christmas break).

Santa Fe High can pad its 9-1 record when it heads to the Village of Los Lunas Holiday Tournament on Thursday, and the 6-2 Horsemen play in Clovis at the Griego & Sons Holiday Classic.

• • •

Anyone who attended the Ben Luján Tournament last weekend surely caught a glimpse of Pojoaque Valley’s latest upgrade.

Situated about 100 feet from the front door of Ben Luján Gymnasium is a brand new baseball field, complete with an artificial turf playing surface, new dimensions and viewing areas for fans and players. Work is scheduled to wrap up any day, said athletic director Matt Martinez.

He said the crew responsible for the work is the same one that has done projects with a number of professional sports franchises, including the Oakland Raiders.

One thing fans can expect a lot of — besides drastically improved fielding percentages now that the old sloped grass and dirt field has been replaced by state of the art carpet — is bombs. Lots and lots of bombs. The field’s dimensions down the lines to left and right are just 300 feet and a shot to straightaway center is about 340.

It’s roughly 20 feet shorter to each pole and considerably more cozy to the power alleys and center.

Perhaps the best thing? The field no longer has that gentle downward angle from south to north. Crews leveled the playing surface and brought home plate closer to the fences. Martinez said the former location of the plate is now on the concrete area that holds bleachers behind the backstop, a few feet above where the new field currently sits.

The Elks will break in their new home when preseason practice begins in February.

***

With approximately 1,000 students, the University of the Southwest in Hobbs is

a Division I member of the NAIA, one of 12 schools in the Red River Athletic Association with teams in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Formerly known as the College of the Southwest, it sponsors 19 sports that includes men’s basketball.

Why is that significant? Because the state’s flagship institution will head to Hobbs next week to play the Mustangs on a neutral court in what is the final nonconference game of the season for the University of New Mexico.

UNM is roughly 25 to 30 times larger than USW. It’s part of Lobos head coach Paul Weir’s initiative to get all of the state’s programs together to celebrate the sport in a purely New Mexico-kind of way.

Tickets to the game, scheduled for Sunday at Tasker Arena on the Hobbs High campus, are still available for $10 general admission and $20 in the lower reserved area. Technically it’s a home game for the Lobos.

• • •

A quick “in case you missed it” tournament roundup: Speaking of the Jaguars, they won Grants’ Eddie Pena Classic title after downing Belen 57-21 on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas Robertson girls improved to 10-0 by beating host Texico 40-37 in the Citizens Bank Tournament championship.

Also at Texico, the McCurdy Bobcats took third place on the boys side after taking down Tohatchi 59-49.

• • •

Congratulations to of New Mexico Highlands University graduates Karli Salazar and Justin Bustos on the birth of their daughter Haleigh Mary Bustos on Dec. 20.

Salazar is a 2011 Española Valley graduate who is assistant volleyball coach at NMHU and formerly the head coach at West Las Vegas. Her dad is Lady Sundevils head volleyball coach Damon Salazar.

Bustos is a 2012 Las Vegas Robertson graduate and former NMHU men’s basketball graduate assistant. He also is the older son of former West Las Vegas head boys basketball coach David Bustos.

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