Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Going into district basketball, two favorites have emerged

(Joseph Garza and the Bulldawgs look like the District 3-5A team to beat/Photo by Gary Mook)

Although there is over a month remaining in the high-school basketball regular season, the district schedule starts tonight. And with that, two preeminent favorites have come to the forefront in District 3-5A, again: The Las Cruces High boys and Mayfield girls basketball programs, respectively.

The Bulldawgs have been solid the past month of the season, and have the look of a team that's grown some since last season — when they were ranked No. 1 in the state for much of the year.

Granted, they lost big the other night to Eldorado (94-63 final), although that game was played in Albuquerque and LCHS bounced back with a win over Volcano Vista the following evening (56-40).

The past month has been a good one for LCHS. Starting with a big road win over Clovis (the same team that knocked the Bulldawgs out of the state tournament a season ago) and a home triumph over previously unbeaten Faith Christian of El Paso, the team has played well. While they lost standout forward Mando Marshall from a season ago, the team also appears to be deeper with the emergence of players such as Malik Woods and JT Romney. They also look confident, a sign of a club that's been battle tested and hardened.

The reality also suggests the rest of District 3-5A simply hasn't been very impressive. Oñate has some talent, yet is sporadic with its inconsistent play. Mayfield just doesn't have the horses this season, a 5-11 team entering league competition. Perhaps Gadsden can be competitive, although is coming off a down season and currently holds a 4-14 record. Alamogordo returned previous head coach Mike Day, and are an improved team with a plan. Still, their recent 99-58 home loss to Hobbs suggests there's still work to do for the Tigers.

The general message: This is LCHS's district to lose.

As for the girls division, Mayfield is always a top-notch team under head coach George Maya and this year is no different. The Trojans have a 16-1 record and hold a No. 3 ranking on the website nmpreps.com (Hobbs and Clovis are No. 1 and 2, respectively).

Their system — a high-pressure defensive scheme and good ball movement offensively — remains firmly intact, and has proven successful in past years.

Las Cruces High could make a push in league play — the Bulldawgs are 11-4 this year and, of course, there is a rivalry to consider between the two teams.

Outside of that, Oñate is competitive, although seems to lack the height and overall team to make a substantial move to the top of the standings.

The Alamogordo girls are in a similar position as its boys program — a team who's coach, Fernie Sanchez, has a handle on the game, and a club that is in fact better. And while Gadsden was a tough team last season, the Panthers had to replace a veteran cast from a year ago.

Things could change, and anything can happen in district basketball.
Still, at least on paper leading up to such competition, there are two teams that appear to be at the top of the pre-ranked charts.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

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