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Class 1A/2A team previews

November 28, 2018

Boys

Class 2A

District 2-2A

Desert Academy/Santa Fe Waldorf Wild Wolves

2017-18 record: First year as a co-op team

Head coach: Enrique Otero (first year)

Key players: Liam Otero, Sr., forward, 6-foot-3; Matias Gonzales, Sr., wing, 5-11; Milan Brkic, Jr., wing, 5-11; Will Smith, So., guard, 5-8; Cameron Motola, Fr., post, 6-1.

Forecast: It worked for the girls program, so why not the boys? The New Mexico Activities Association approved the merger of a winless Wildcats team with a seven win Wolves squad that had just five players at the end of the season. Liam Otero is a dynamic player who can play inside and out, and coach Otero likes the versatility Brkic brings to the team. Motola is a young big with plenty of potential. If this merger clicks, the Wild Wolves could make things interesting in 2-2A.

Monte del Sol Dragons

2017-18 record: 13-14 overall, 1-5 in District 2-3A. Lost to Texico, 73-18, in the first round of the Class 3A State Tournament.

Head coach: Alfredo Lujan (fourth year)

Key players: Santiago Archuleta, Sr., wing, 5-foot-10; Isaiah Salazar, Sr., guard, 5-5; Peter Lujan, Sr., wing, 5-7; Alec Lopez, Sr., guard, 5-4; Jonathan Hodges, So., post, 6-2; Axel Lozoya, So., guard, 5-5

Forecast: The Dragons took a big step in their development, making it to the Class 3A State Tournament despite finishing last in their district. With a senior-dominant team, Monte del Sol is poised to challenge for a district title and perhaps earn a home game for the postseason. The troika of Archuleta, Salazar and Lujan has been the backbone of the program for the last few years, while Hodges showed flashes of potential toward the end of the season and gives Monte del Sol the size needed to compete against the likes of McCurdy. This season has all the makings of a special one, but an injury or two could upend it.

Academy for Technology and the Classics Phoenix

2017-18 record: 10-17 overall, 4-4 in District 3-3A

Head coach: Anthony Moya (first year)

Key players: Kahlil Norbeck, Sr., guard, 5-10; Chris Brewer, Sr., forward, 6-1; Jeremy Lucero, Sr., guard, 5-2; Derrick Valdez, Sr., wing, 5-10

Forecast: It’s a year of transition, as the Phoenix get a new coach, and Moya goes from coaching girls teams for the past eight seasons to boys. While he gets an experienced team, Moya wants to focus on the fundamentals and build from there. Norbeck and Lucero will be key ball handlers and shooters, while Brewer offers some muscle in the paint. Moya believes that ATC will be competitive come district season, but he is still trying to get a feel for his team.

Tierra Encantada Alacranes

2017-18 record: 6-21 overall, 2-6 in District 3-3A

Head coach: James Edwards (first year)

Key players: Brenden O’Farrel, Sr., guard, 5-11; Enrique Salazar, Sr., forward, 5-10; Brian Chavez, Sr., guard, 5-9; Miguel Aldarette, So., wing, 5-10

Forecast: The Alacranes move into a district that fits their level better, but they are still a work in progress. It’s a senior-laden group that has some solid guards and wings, but will struggle against bigger, more physical teams. With Desert Academy and Santa Fe Waldorf joining forces, Tierra Encantada might struggle to stay out of the district basement.

McCurdy Bobcats

2017-18 record: 18-9 overall, 4-2 in District 2-3A. Lost to Tularosa, 61-57, in the first round of the Class 3A State Tournament

Head coach: Ernesto Espinoza (fifth year)

Key players: Ubaldo Barela, Jr., center 6-foot-2; Kemmer Croff, Sr., guard, 6-1; Ernesto Martinez, Sr., point guard, 5-7; Raul Arroyo, Sr., guard, 5-9; Jacob Martinez, Sr., forward, 6-1

Forecast: If the Bobcats needed any motivation going into this season, letting a fourth quarter lead slip away from the Wildcats in the opening round of the 3A tournament should be plenty for a senior-loaded roster (nine in all). Barela and Croff provide the beef in the paint, while Arroyo and Ernesto Martinez make opponents pay for sagging their defense into the paint. McCurdy will test itself in a couple of upscale small-school tournaments in Texico and Estancia, and could be the sleeper team in 2A if it performs well in those.

District 5-2A

Peñasco Panthers

2017-18 record: 7-20 overall, 2-6 in District 5-2A

Head coach: Brandon Gurule (second year)

Key players: Juaquine Fernandez, Sr., guard, 5-foot-10; Dominic Lopez, Jr., guard, 5-10; Danny Esquibel, Jr., forward, 5-10; Jude Encinias, So., guard, 5-5.

Forecast: The Panthers improved in many ways under Gurule in his first year, but the loss of three key seniors might mean they take a step back in Year 2. Fernandez is the lone returning senior, and Peñasco will be junior and sophomore heavy. The Panthers have some length in the backcourt and the wings, but lack size in the post. If they can crack double-digits in wins, it will be a sign of things to come for the program.

Mesa Vista Trojans

2017-18 record: 13-16 overall, 4-4 in District 5-2A. Lost to Fort Sumner/House, 67-46, in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament

Head coach: Benito Maestas (second year)

Key players: Julian Quintana, Sr., guard, 5-foot-8; Augustin Campos, Sr., guard, 5-6; Danny Gollas, Jr., guard, 5-7; Ryan Garcia, Jr., forward, 5-9; Damien Trujillo, Jr.., forward, 5-10

Forecast: The Trojans reached the state tournament for the second time in the past three years, but this might be a rebuilding year for the program after losing guards Frankie Ortiz and Xavier Varela to graduation. Quintana, Campos and Gollas will be counted on to fill those big shoes in the backcourt, but Mesa Vista lacks size to complement the guard play. Then again, that has been a problem for the past few years, and the Trojans managed it very well. However, last year’s role players will need to step up if they want to advance beyond the district tournament.

Coronado Leopards

2017-18 record: 9-18 overall, 4-6 in District 1-1A. Lost to Reserve, 72-47, in the first round of the Class 1A State Tournament

Head coach: Walter Bustos (second year)

Key players: Tim Fuchs, Jr., forward, 6-foot-3; Andrew Jacquez, Jr., guard, 5-7; Dustin Chavez, Jr., guard, 5-6; Adriano Duran, Sr., wing, 5-7

Forecast: The Leopards elected to jump up to Class 2A, despite having a 1A enrollment. Good thing they got older, as a core group of four juniors grew up, as they went 5-4 to finish the year and sneaked into the state tournament. Fuchs has the size to give opponents fits, but Coronado has to find someone to replace backcourt experience of Madrid. If that happens, the Leopards might have enough to play into March.

Escalante Lobos

2017-18 record: 15-14 overall, 6-2 in District 5-2A

Head coach: Henry Gettler (first year)

Key players: Andres Blea, Sr., forward, 5-foot-9; Cortez Martinez, Sr., guard, 5-6; Tristan Coriz, Sr., forward, 6-2; Cory Gallegos, Jr., forward, 5-9; Esteban Archuleta, Sr., forward, 5-10

Forecast: The Lobos turned over a new leaf, as Gettler takes over for Bill Russom after he spent the last six years in charge. Gettler already had good success with the volleyball program, leading it to a district title. He won’t have a bare cupboard with the boys as Martinez, Coriz and Blea bring experience and some size to build around. Escalante might not be as explosive as last year, having lost dynamic 6-4 wing Justin Garcia to graduation, but it should be competitive enough to challenge Mora in the district.

Questa Wildcats

2017-18 record: 2-24 overall, 1-7 in District 5-2A

Head coach: Daniel Gallegos (first year)

Key players: Daniel Mandonado, Sr., guard, 5-foot-8; Derek Vialpando, Sr., guard, 5-7; Miguel Romero, Sr., guard, 5-4; Ethan Rivera, Jr., guard, 5-2.

Forecast: It was a lost season for the Wildcats, as it went through a coaching change weeks before the season began, then lost its best player in the process. A young group took plenty of lumps, but will they be better this year? Mandonado and Vialpando are the best athletes on the team, but a lack of size and strength on the rest of the squad might be too much to overcome. Add to that a program that is on its third coach in a year, and all signs point to another struggling season.

Mora Rangers

2017-18 record: 21-8 overall, 8-0 in District 5-2A. Lost to Abq. Menaul, 67-65, in Class 2A quarterfinals

Head coach: Carlos Arellano (second year)

Key players: Carlos Muller Jr., Sr., guard, 5-foot-10; Jerome Pacheco, Jr., wing, 5-11; Roderick Martinez, Sr., guard, 5-8; Carlos Arellano, Jr., wing, 5-9; Kenneth Martinez, Sr., guard, 5-7.

Forecast: The Rangers rebounded from a tough 2016-17 season and rolled through district play, and it should continue into this season. Pacheco and Muller will key Mora’s fast-paced attack, but the Martinezes and Arellano can make opponents pay for focusing too much on the pair. The Rangers will struggle against bigger teams, but they have the quickness and speed to counteract that deficiency. Class 2A will be loaded, but expect the Rangers to be one of those teams no one wants to face come March.

District 7-2A

Pecos Panthers

2017-18 record: 28-3 overall, 8-0 in District 3-3A. Beat Texico, 58-44, in the Class 3A championship

Head coach: Ira Harge Jr. (sixth year)

Key players: Xavier Padilla, Jr., 6-foot-1, forward/center; Anthony Armijo, Jr., 5-8, guard; Omar Dominguez, Sr., 6-0, forward; Ismael Villegas, Jr., 6-2, post; Devin Gonzales, Jr., 5-5, guard; Isaac Gonzales, Sr., 5-8, guard

Forecast: The Panthers have settled into a nice little pattern for the program: graduate some talented seniors, return some talented upperclassmen. Padilla, Dominguez Armijo will be looked upon to pick up the slack, but Harge has 11 juniors on the roster ready to help out with that task. Still, Padilla brings the inside presence, Armijo the ball handling and outside shooting and Dominguez length and athleticism. Don’t expect a sterling record to start the year — or even a district title by the end of it — but Pecos will be a force in the district and in Class 2A.

Class 1A

District 7-1A

New Mexico School for the Deaf Roadrunners

2017-18 record: 20-5 overall, 7-1 in District 1-1A. Lost to Abq. Evangel Christian, 52-37, in the first round of the Class 1A State Tournament

Head coach: Letty Perez (fourth year)

Key players: Deven Thompson, Sr., center, 6-foot-10; Julio Portillo, Jr., guard, 5-8; Bruce Brewer, Fr., guard, 5-8; Jacob Stevens, Jr., forward, 5-10; Dustin Hand, Jr., wing, 5-7.

Forecast: The Roadrunners had a season to remember, winning their first district title in 40 years and earning a top-five seed for the state tournament in the process. NMSD possesses perhaps the best player in the class in Thompson, and Brewer is a talented, flashy point guard. What the pair need, though, are shooters. The Roadrunners lost a key gunner with the graduation of Jonathan Garcia, so they will look to Hand and Portillo to take up that slack. If that happens, NMSD could make a deep run in the state tournament.

Girls

Class 2A

District 2-2A

Desert Academy/Santa Fe Waldorf Lady Wild Wolves

2017-18 record: 7-17 overall, 1-7 in District 3-3A

Head coach: Mike Velarde (second year)

Key players: Olivia Rigatti, Jr., guard, 5-foot-7; Liese Rios, Sr., guard, 5-4; Elena Lussiez, Fr., forward, 5-7; Jadyn Taylor, Fr., post, 5-6.

Forecast: In Year 2 of the private-school co-op, Velarde finds himself in familiar waters — not enough bodies. Thanks to the efforts of Waldorf athletic director Daniel Wendland and Desert Academy AD Phil Lucero, the program should have between eight and 10 players this year. Rigatti will be counted on to handle the ball against the expected pressure most opponents applied on them last year, while Lussiez and Taylor wil need to provide a presence in the paint. In a district that is relatively weak outside of McCurdy, it’s anybody’s ball game to give chase to the Lady Bobcats.

Monte del Sol Lady Dragons

2017-18 record: 4-16 overall, 2-4 in District 2-3A

Head coach: Ray Roybal (second year)

Key players: Victoria Alarcon, Jr., guard; Karina Peña, Sr., post; Jasmyn Chacon, Fr., guard; Sonya Castillo, Fr., guard; Ananya Mulakala, Fr., forward

Forcast: Roybal goes from a veteran starting lineup with eighth-graders coming off the bench to a bunch of underclassmen surrounding Alarcon and Peña. Alarcon will take up up the mantle as the go-to player, but Roybal feels he has better shooters overall and can spread the scoring around more. If the guard play can improve and avoid turning the ball over as much, the Lady Dragons should be competitive in the district.

Academy for Technology and the Classics Phoenix

2017-18 season: 9-17 overall, 1-7 in District 3-3A

Head coach: Mike Cintas (second year)

Key players: Valeria Cera, Jr., guard, 5-3; Emily Duke, Sr., guard, 5-4; Osiris Lopez, Jr., guard, 5-4; Maya Wright, So., forward, 5-6

Forecast: Cintas begins his second year having to replace the bulk of his scoring in Felicity Sealy and Ashley Zapata, who graduated. Cera and Lopez have veteran experience, but will be counted upon to take on more of the scoring load. The Phoenix will be lacking in size, which will be a challenge against the likes of McCurdy and Tierra Encantada.

Tierra Encantada Lady Alacranes

2017-18 record: 18-8 overall, 5-3 in District 3-3A. Lost to Pecos, 64-32, in the first round of the Class 3A State Tournament

Head coach: Kurtis Montoya (third year)

Key players: Destiny Nevarez, Sr., guard, 5-3; Ida Contreras, Sr., forward, 5-6; Danielle Encinias, Sr., forward, 5-5; Anysha Hopkins, Fr., forward, 5-6

Forecast: The Lady Alacranes made the big leap forward, competing with Pecos for the district title and reaching the 3A state tournament. Nevarez and Contreras return, and provide the foundation for another run. However, Tierra Encantada’s success will depend on the growth of the underclassmen. If they progress, the Lady Alacranes will be the primary district rival to McCurdy. If not, it could be a dog fight with the rest of the district to finish second-best.

McCurdy Lady Bobcats

2017-18 record: 19-12 overall, 4-2 in District 2-3A. Lost to Tularosa, 61-50, in the first round of the Class 3A State Tournament

Head coach: Ronald Sanchez (fourth year)

Key players: Erika Loera, Jr., post, 5-foot-10; Jayme Bustos, Jr., guard, 5-4; Angie Arroyo, Jr., wing, 5-6; Megan Archuleta, Jr., wing, 5-5

Forecast: Last year’s senior-dominant team will give way to a junior-loaded group that should be the favorite in the district. The downside is the bulk of McCurdy’s production graduated, but the juniors played key roles last year and should be ready to take a step forward. Arroyo and Loera will be a potent duo in the frontcourt, while Bustos will be a key ballhandler and shooter from the perimeter. Don’t expect the Lady Bobcats to come out on fire at the start of the year as players adjust to their new roles, but they have plenty of experience and talent to stake their claim as the team to beat in 2-2A.

District 5-2A

Peñasco Lady Panthers

2017-18 record: 26-5 overall, 8-0 in District 5-2A. Lost to Fort Sumner/House Texico, 49-38, in the Class 2A championship game

Head coach: Gilbert Mascareñas (third year)

Key players: Bianca Contreras, Sr., wing, 5-foot-6; Alaska Lopez, Sr., wing, 5-5; Carly Gonzales, Jr., forward, 5-10; Adriana Tafoya, Jr., guard, 5-5; Ariana MacAuley, junior, guard, 5-6.

Forecast: A year removed from a runner-up finish, the Lady Panthers appear ready to make another long tourney to The Pit. Gonzales blossomed into a consistent scoring threat in the low post, while Tafoya, Lopez and Contreras slashed and shot around her. That combination should be successful again this season. If Peñasco can develop a little more depth, there is no reason to think it can return to the state championship game, if not win it all.

Mesa Vista Lady Trojans

2017-18 record: 3-24 overall, 0-10 in District 5-2A

Head coach: Bobby Romero (first year)

Key players: Abrianna Griego, Sr., guard, 5-foot-2; Aubrianna Martinez, Sr., wing, 5-3; Alyssa Suazo, Jr., forward, 5-4; Jasmine Jaramillo, Jr., forward, 5-7; Gabriella Archuleta, Jr., forward, 5-3; Alyssa Cervantes, So., forward, 5-6.

Forecast: Things are different for the Lady Trojans, but they remain the same. Their coach is a Romero (Bobby, in place of Monica). Their two best players have similar sounding first names (Griego and Martinez). And they return the bulk of their roster, but are still young. What hasn’t changed is that Mesa Vista will be small, with only two players 5-6 and taller. Romero, who was the interim head coach at Española Valley last year, now has a permanent position, but must find a way to offset his team’s lack of size to compete in a tough district.

Coronado Lady Leopards

2017-18 record: 21-8 overall, 4-0 in District 1-1A. Lost to Des Moines, 63-47, in the Class 1A quarterfinals

Head coach: Glenn Callaway (first year)

Key players: Janessa Madrid, Jr., wing, 5-foot-7; Jaylene Jacquez, Jr., guard, 5-1; Jazmyn Delgado, So., wing, 5-5; Lyandra Chacon, So., guard, 5-0

Forecast: It was an offseason of change for the Lady Leopards. They graduated four seniors who were a big part of Coronado’s quarterfinal squad and saw head coach David Chavez leave for Northern New Mexico College. However, Callaway inherits a solid squad, led by Madrid, who was the second-leading scorer last year. He will lean on her and a group of mostly juniors and sophomores. The Lady Leopards should be good enough to compete in 5-2A.

Escalante Lady Lobos

2017-18 record: 12-14 overall, 4-4 in District 5-2A. Lost to Mescalaro, 59-42, in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament

Head coach: Isaac Royston (first year)

Key players: Aubriana Hinds, Sr., wing, 5-foot-6; Valerie Valdez, Sr., guard, 5-3; Kaliese Torrez, Fr., wing, 5-5, 5-4; Brandie Martinez, Jr., guard, 5-0; Kyla Redwine, Jr., forward, 5-5

Forecast: Last season was a step backward for the Lady Lobos, who went from 2A runners-up to barely getting into the state tournament in March as the 15th seed. Hinds and Valdez will be crucial to offsetting the graduation of forward Sarah Hurd and guard Tenisha Torrez, but Kaliese Torrez could be a pleasant surprise after seeing varsity time as an eighth-grader. Given the talent returning in the district, Escalante might slip further behind the pack, especially with a new coach in Royston taking over for long-time coach Tara Terrazas-Martinez. A lot depends on the development of the underclassmen.

Questa Lady Wildcats

2017-18 record: 13-16 overall, 4-4 in District 5-2A. Lost to Peñasco, 76-42, in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament

Head coach: Monique Trujillo (first year)

Key players: Alexis Padilla, Sr., guard, 5-foot-3; Kiana Passino, Jr., guard, 5-3; Christina Cisneros, Jr., guard, 5-2; Anastacia Gonzales, So., forward, 5-7.

Forecast: It was a dramatic turnaround for the Lady Wildcats, who went from just two wins in 2016-17 to a spot in the Class 2A State Tournament. However, they are on their third coach in as many years, and that could slow down the momentum gained from last year. Padilla and Passino are a strong guard tandem, and Gonzales could step up and provide interior defense and rebounding. All signs point toward Questa moving up the district ladder, and that could lead to a better seed come the state tournament.

Mora Rangerettes

2017-18 record: 11-17 overall, 4-4 in District 5-2A

Head coach: Vanessa Martinez (second year)

Key players: Dennika Bustos, Sr., guard, 5-foot-3; Danae Pino, Jr., forward, 5-5; Janiya Gold, So., guard, 5-3; Chrissy Cordova, So., guard, 5-3; Gabriella Duran, Jr., post, 5-6

Forecast: It was odd to see the Rangerettes on the sidelines for the Class 2A State Tournament, which had not happened in 14 years. A slow start (4-9 to start the year) ultimately did them in, but they showed some life down the stretch in winning four of their last six games. Bustos was a workhorse last season, leading the team in scoring (9.3 PPG) and minutes (26 per game), and Pino developed into a strong low-post option and leads a strong group of juniors. Martinez will rely on the underclassmen, some of whom saw significant playing time, to grow and develop.

District 7-2A

Pecos Lady Panthers

2017-18 record: 24-5 overall, 8-0 in District 3-3A. Lost to Texico, 54-34, in the Class 3A quarterfinals

Head coach: Ron Drake (fifth year)

Key players: Cassie Muller, Sr., wing, 5-foot-6; Trinity Herrera, So., guard, 5-4; Brittney Martinez, Sr., wing, 5-5; Alexis Gonzales, So., guard, 5-4; Faith Flores, Sr., forward, 5-8.

Forecast: The Lady Panthers might be in arguably the toughest district in Class 2A, but this team is best suited for the transition. Muller and Herrera are a great 1-2 scoring punch, but Pecos has four or five players capable of scoring in double figures. Its only problem might be depth in the post, but this is the deepest and most talented team Drake has had at Pecos. A fall season of unprecedented girls sports success could flow into the basketball season.

Class 1A

District 6-1A

New Mexico School for the Deaf Lady Roadrunners

2017-18 record: 5-13 overall, 0-4 in District 1-1A

Head coach: Johanna Scherling (first year)

Key players: Lindsay Hand, Jr., wing, 5-foot-6; Mya Malone, Jr., forward, 5-7; Victoria Baca, So., guard, 5-2; Andrea Leyba, Jr., wing, 5-3

Forecast: The Lady Roadrunners have a strong returning nucleus, but find themselves in a very competitive district with the additions of Jemez Valley and To’hajiilee. Hand and Malone play well off of each other, and Baca grew into a strong guard. Depth, as always, will be an issue, especially with two freshmen and an eighth-grader filling the rest of the roster. If NMSD can improve its fundamentals, it can be competitive in the district.

James Barron

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