Rio Rancho’s Tamiera Smith, left, and Halle Peterson battle Cleveland’s Brenna Wolfe for the basketball during first-half action Thursday evening. Wolfe wound up on the floor, but her Storm team prevailed, 50-39. Gary Herron photo.

The night before the boys’ city showdown, the city’s varsity girls teams squared off in the Thunderdome gymnasium.
Already knowing their season was about to end, the Rams took aim at spoiling the Storm’s postseason hopes of earning one of the three at-large bids for state. But, missing two players — including a starter — due to COVID restrictions, the Rams never led and fell short.
The victory didn’t guarantee the Storm (10-2, 6-2 in 1-5A) anything, but their “body of work,” and having lost to only one team, the district champion Volcano Vista Hawks (10-0, 8-0), should ensure them an at-large bid when the bracket was released last night.
Defending 5A champ and District 4-5A champ Hobbs has won two of the last three 5A titles, and lost to West Mesa in the 2019 championship game. The other district champ is Centennial (5-3A).
To be decided after press time were the District 2-5A champion, coming down to La Cueva and Eldorado, and District 5-5A, between Los Lunas and Albuquerque High.
The Class 5A girls’ state bracket can be viewed on nmact.org.
Storm 50, Rams 39: Alexa Madueno sank a 3-pointer after the game began for a 3-0 lead, and the Storm never trailed the rest of the way.
Tied at 7, the Storm ran off six straight points to take the lead for good, as the sputtering Rams (4-8, 2-6) managed only three field goals in the first quarter, then two each in the second and third periods.
RRHS did shoot better from the foul line in the contest, making 15 of 21 shots from the charity stripe compared to a 12-of-24 outing by the Storm.
But field goals are where the difference was made, and the Storm added another trey, by Bridgett Ignacio, before game’s end.
With Rams sharpshooter Olivia Bergsten in foul trouble early, Rio Rancho’s ability to connect on 3-pointers was curtailed to the tune of 0 for 5, unofficially, from behind the arc.
The game had been close by intermission, with Cleveland ahead 26-20, but the Rams could never close the deficit to less than six the rest of the way — and trailed by as many as 12 points several times in the second half.
Madueno led all scorers with 18 points; the Rams were led by Taylor Kennedy, with 15.
CHS coach Susan Kubala said there’s no way her girls were going to take the Rams for granted.
“Anytime you play rival Rio Rancho, they’re going to bring their best,” she said. “They changed some things up; they came out real aggressive. I think we were a little over-hyped to begin, and we didn’t settle down like we normally did.
“Officiating was calling it really tight; we haven’t had that for awhile, so we didn’t adjust very well,” she added. “That got people in foul trouble.”
By halftime, each team had accumulated 11 personal fouls; far less fouls were whistled in the second half.
“We came out — we got the job done. That was No. 1,” Kubala added. “We have done what we needed to do, ended up second in our district to an excellent Volcano team. We should get into the state tournament. … That committee is going to have a tough job trying to figure out who the (three) at-large bids are.”
The Storm also won the teams’ earlier get-together, 52-32, in the RAC.
It’s the second season in a row the Rams have failed to make the playoffs.
Storm 35, Cibola 32: Two nights before their meeting with the Rams, the Storm made sure their postseason hopes would remain alive.
A 10-6 advantage in the fourth quarter, or Cleveland’s 7 of 12 outing at the foul line compared to the Cougars’ 2 of 8 shooting there, could be pointed to as the difference. Madueno led the Storm with 10 points, eight of which came in the decisive final period.
The Cougars (4-5, 4-4) finished third in the district standings.
Volcano Vista 63, Rams 45: Once again, the 1-5A champs were too much for the Rams to handle.
The visiting Hawks put the game away early, jumping out to a 16-3 lead by the end of the opening quarter in the RAC.
The lead grew to 27-11 at halftime, and then 47-21 entering the final quarter.
Kennedy led the Rams with 13 points.
It was the Rams’ fifth loss in a row to the perennial district-champion Hawks, whom they last beat, 33-32, on Feb. 20, 2019, in the RAC.
Ram dunks: The Rams-Storm junior varsity contest was entertaining, with the Rams pulling away from a deadlock at 42 to win, 53-48. The high-scorer in the game was the shortest player on the floor, 4-foot-tall Rams junior Jamie Mondragon, who dropped in 30 points, with six 3-ponters and 6-of-7 shooting at the foul line.

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