Cleveland’s Kindyll Sandoval attacks the basket against Rio Rancho’s Olivia Bergsten during a District 1-5A girls basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at the Thunderdome.
(Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

For the time being, Cleveland still has Rio Rancho’s number after scraping out a 35-34 victory in Tuesday’s District 1-5A girls basketball clash at the Thunderdome.

Cleveland’s won six of the last seven head-to-head matchups, improving to 21-15 in the rivalry overall.

“It was a typical game against them, especially during district. It’s always a dogfight,” Cleveland coach Susan Kubala said. “Couldn’t buy a basket in the first half, missed a lot of tippy shots. Proud of them that were resilient and kept fighting back.”

Both parties struggled on second and third-chance looks most of the night. Cleveland’s bigs knocked down some key shots about midway through the third quarter, but Rio Rancho stayed well within striking distance by attacking the paint and getting to the foul line.

“We showed a lot of fight, a lot of toughness,” Rio Rancho coach Scott Peterson said.

Rio Rancho’s Kira Parisian and Cleveland’s Brenna Wolfe fight for a rebound during a District 1-5A girls basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at the Thunderdome.
(Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

The Rams were within one or two points the whole time, but couldn’t deliver that next big punch. Layups still weren’t falling, and second and third-chance tries remained troublesome.

“I felt like we had some good looks, but they just didn’t get knocked down,” Peterson said.

Cleveland, on the other hand, was able to breathe a bit more as the fourth quarter progressed, thanks to a few critical 3-pointers.

CHS’s Kindyll Sandoval opened the fourth quarter by draining a 3 from the top left edge, then buried another 3 from the top right edge a few minutes later. Bridgett Ignacio hit a 3 of her own, and the Storm had enough defensive stops down the stretch to help preserve the win.

“We hit some key (3s) tonight. Just got to play with confidence, shoot with confidence,” Kubala said. “(The Rams) were aggressive. They threw some different defenses at us. It took a second for us to figure out ‘What do we need to do?’ Any time you play a little timid, that’s not usually a positive outcome… We came back, and we persevered, and we got it done.”

Cleveland (14-8, 3-1) secured its third straight win, while Rio Rancho (10-11, 2-2) has lost seven of its last 10 games.

Ignacio scored 13 points for Cleveland. Rio Rancho’s Alice Wilkinson and Halle Peterson scored 11 and seven points, respectively.

“At a game like this, you can pick apart any possession and be frustrated about it. We definitely had some stupid turnovers, we missed some defensive assignments, but I’m just so proud of how our girls fought,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to be talking more, jumping to the ball more on defense. We’ve got to rebound the ball better, and then we do have to knock down shots… It’s tough, again, to lose by one.”