The Rio Rancho High School boys basketball team still has a shot at finishing in second place in District 1-5A, thanks to an exciting win at Atrisco Heritage Academy Wednesday evening.

Heading into its Friday (Feb. 11) night home game vs. last-place Cibola (7-15, 1-5), a team the Rams have already beaten this season, the Rams (13-8, 2-3 in 1-5A), it looks like the proverbial stage is being set for an all-important showdown at Cleveland (11-12, 1-4) next Friday.

The state champion Storm have lost nine of their last 10 games, and getting back on the winning road won’t be easy on the 11th when they meet second-place Atrisco Heritage Academy (17-5, 4-2) in the Thunderdome – and the Storm lost their earlier meeting with the Jaguars.

Next week, the Rams are home Wednesday to meet unbeaten district champion Volcano Vista (22-0, 6-0), which clinched first place after a 51-38 victory over AHA on Feb. 7,  and then off to try to beat the Storm, who have won the last 12 meetings between the city’s teams.

The Storm are on the road Wednesday to try to avenge an earlier home loss to the Cougars.

At any rate, it looks like it’ll be an interesting finish for the Rams and Storm, with third place – and maybe even second place – up for grabs before Feb. 19.

The District 1-5A tournament starts the following week, with the usual format: last-place team at the fourth-place team; that winner heads to the third-place team; that game’s winner travels to the runner-up’s gym; and that winner heads to VVHS’s Ring of Fire on Feb. 26. Game time for all of this week and next week’s contests is 7 p.m.

Rams 56, Atrisco Heritage Academy 53: “We needed a résumé win and we got it,” Salata said of the Wednesday win in the South Valley. “It was senior night for the Jaguars.

The Rams spoiled that, the team’s second loss in a row after falling earlier in the week to unbeaten Volcano Vista for first place in the district.

“We fell behind by 9 points in the first quarter. We changed defenses in the second quarter,” Salata said. “We went from playing a zone to a man. The intensity on defense picked up the rest of the game. We couldn’t stop senior Javier Mendoza; he scored 15 of the 24 Jaguars’ points in the first half, (and) scored zero in the second half.”

After the first quarter, the Rams outscored the Jaguars in each quarter.

Caton led the Rams in scoring with 20 points; Jayden Johnson added 12 and Bynum chipped in with 11. Caton and Bynum played all 32 minutes.

Rams coach Wally Salata goes out on the floor to impart instructions to his team … or maybe give some advice to a referee. (Herron photo)