Monday, February 24, 2014

District 3-5A boys basketball preview: Team capsules

(Las Cruces High School's Anthony Collins and Mayfield's Lloyd Gardner dive for a loose ball during a Jan. 28 contest at LCHS. The two teams split their two league games in 2014, yet Mayfield claimed the No. 1 seed in this week's district tournament/Photo by Gary Mook)

The Mayfield Trojans were the victors in a very balanced District 3-5A boys basketball regular-season race this season.

Mayfield rattled off six-straight league wins - they finished with a 6-2 overall record in district play - to win the regular-season championship.

The team will now be seeded No. 1 in the District Tournament, and will host Saturday’s title game.
With that being said, it would appear a handful of teams have a legitimate shot - the tough Trojans, the dangerous Gadsden Panthers, the improving Las Cruces Bulldawgs and the talented Alamogordo Tigers would all like to think they can come out on top.

With that, we take a capsule look at each team in District 3-5A, and what strengths - and weaknesses - they bring to the table with the 2013-14 postseason officially here:

Mayfield Trojans
Seed: No. 1
Record (Overall, district): 16-10, 6-2
Key players: G Isaac Rivera, G Josh Luevano, G/F Kavika Johnson
Rundown: This is a gritty team that’s pulled off some monster comeback victories during the second-half of district play - wins over Las Cruces High, at Alamogordo and at Gadsden all stood out as such. Mayfield also has some toughness - frontcourt player Dominic Carrasco is another contributor to watch in this regard. The Trojans began district play this season with an 0-2 record - and looked horrible in the process - but recovered to win six straight games to close out league play. They enter the district tournament as the top seed and with a bye all the way until Saturday’s championship round. Still, perhaps the best way to describe Mayfield is this: a team that can beat anybody on any given night, yet one that could fall just as easily in the same instance.

Gadsden Panthers
Seed: No. 2
Record: 19-7, 5-3
Key players: F Rafael Martinez, G Tommy Cano, F William Contreras
Rundown: The Panthers are a true team, one that might not necessarily have a true star player, yet a unit that also plays very well together. The Panthers don’t make many mistakes and typically don’t beat themselves under head coach Mike Harper. They also run an underrated offense with good ball handlers. A dangerous team that will have a home game in Thursday’s semifinal.

Las Cruces Bulldawgs
Seed: No. 3
Record: 15-11, 5-3
Key players: G/F Malik Woods; F J.T. Romney; C Cody Murrillo; AC
Rundown: One could make the argument the Bulldawgs are playing better than anyone in district at this point. After a 1-5 start to the season - when the team was fitting in new pieces after winning a State Championship in 2012-13 - the Bulldawgs now sit at 15-11 and have won six of their last seven games. Granted, the team has lost some head scratchers this season, including a home game against Alamogordo to open district (minus the senior Romney) and blowing a big fourth quarter lead to Mayfield less than two weeks ago (in an eventual 58-54 defeat). But the Bulldawgs have seen some players round into form - such as point guard Anthony Collins - and are capable of reaching, and winning, a district championship game.

Alamogordo Tigers
Seed: No. 4
Record: 17-9, 4-4
Key players: F JoJo Jones, F JJ Johnson, F Andrew Yates
Rundown: This team is right there with anyone - or in some cases, could surpass some of its district counterparts - from a talent standpoint. The Tigers have a balanced team and one with size, and have also put together some nice wins on their resume - at Las Cruces (again, minus Romney) and a blowout home victory over Gadsden. Still, Alamogordo hasn’t quite seemed to turn the corner either, with their only other district wins coming against Oñate. One would figure they can get past their opening-round game Monday against the Knights. With that being, a tall order would await at Las Cruces High in the district quarterfinals round.

Oñate Knights
Seed: No. 5
Record: 4-22, 0-8
Key players: F Kal McCorkle, G Josh Gandara, F/G Jacob Gandara
Rundown: It’s been quite the fall from grace for the Knights, who won a State Championship three years ago, only to not have a District 3-5A win on their resume for the entire 2013-14 season. Perhaps they can get one at Alamogordo to open the league tournament, although they’re the clear underdog.

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