Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Power rankings: A tale of the tape in District 3-5A basketball heading into league season

A ranking of the teams in District 3-5A boys and girls basketball, which tips off its league season tonight.

No. 1-ranked Las Cruces High headlines the boys division, while defending state champion Mayfield is in the driver's seat amongst the girls.

Boys division
1) Las Cruces Bulldawgs
Pre-district record: 11-4
The skinny: The Bulldawgs have been the No. 1 ranked team in the state for much of the year and are beginning to play the part. Power forward Mando Marshall is the team's most physically imposing player and point guard Joe Garza might be its most important. LCHS has all the qualifications to be a top-ranked team — some marquee players, a good supporting and a bench that's beginning to round into form.

2) Mayfield Trojans
Pre-district record: 7-8
The skinny: Mayfield's talent doesn't necessarily jump off the court, although the Trojans will play hard and play together. There is some skill here, too, and the Trojans always seem to be in a comfort zone as the underdog. That's good a good thing in this case, because they'll certainly play that role when taking on crosstown rival Las Cruces High.

3) Oñate Knights
Pre-district record: 6-10
The skinny: This is a dangerous team, simply because of their style. Their slowed-down pace allows them to hang in games and, if they get the lead, they're tough to mount a comeback on. They have two seniors — Brandon Rosales and Chino Saldivar — who won a state title with the program last year, and a freshman — Sammy Barnes-Tompkins — who has the green light to shoot the ball.

4) Alamogordo Tigers
Pre-district record: 6-11
The skinny: This team has lost seven-straight games and doesn't seem likely to contend for a league title. An effective post player, Harold Jackson, left the team and they've struggled offensively. They still have some athleticism and their go-to scorer is wing player Eric Schalk.

5) Gadsden Panthers
Pre-district record: 6-10
The skinny: An improving team, it still seems like Gadsden will be jockeying with Alamogordo for fifth place in District 3-5A.

Girls division
1) Mayfield Trojans
Pre-district record: 13-3
The skinny: The Trojans have remained true to their identity — creating offense with their full-court, pressing defense. They do look slightly different in personnel, however, possessing a thin backcourt and three big players — Tiffani Lara, Daeshi McCants and Allie Pierce — anchoring their frontline. They are a well-coached team that could contend for a state title once again in a wide open Class 5A.

2) Oñate Knight
Pre-district record: 11-6
The skinny: An injury to guard Kelsie Niehoff could hurt Oñate from truly pushing Mayfield in the league standings. When Niehoff — who is out with a foot fracture — is away from the floor, OHS has to move shooters Alexyss Burkhartsmeier or Sharolette Shanks to the primary ballhandler position, which can put a cramp in their offense. The hope is that Niehoff can return to action for the stretch run of district play.

3) Las Cruces High
Pre-district record: 9-7
The skinny: Similar to Oñate, LCHS has some good guard play — led by Samantha Mendoza — and not a lot of size. The Bulldawgs are a well-coached team, but their lack of depth up front can hurt them in the rebounding department, and ultimately will hurt them in challenging for a state title.

4) Gadsden Panthers
Pre-district record: 8-9
The skinny: This has the look of an improved team, with a record close to the .500 mark entering league play. Nathalie Castellanos has returned to the court this year for Gadsden, which could provide a scare for a couple of their District 3-5A rivals.

5) Alamogordo Tigers
Pre-district record: 6-11
The skinny: First-year coach Fernando Sanchez took over the Tigers this past offseason and the team is in rebuilding mode. An inexperienced squad, Alamogordo lacks scoring punch and looks to press on the defensive end of the floor.

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