Only one team has beaten the Hawks all season, and that was in the Thunderdome. Cleveland ended what had been a 47-game losing streak, 53-50, on Jan. 21, and the Hawks haven’t lost since then. They’ve won 52 of their last 53 games.
In their Ring of Fire gymnasium this season, the Hawks improved to 11-0 after their second-half surge beat the visiting Rams, 39-36,
Tuesday evening. VVHS had a noisy student section and a top-notch pep band, basically two ingredients the Rams have lacked all season.
Hawks coach Greg Brown started five of his six seniors to commemorate Senior Night, and the Rams took advantage early, scoring the game’s first six points, leading 13-6 after the first period ended and 19-17 at halftime.
That two-point lead at intermission is deceiving: The lead had been 19-10, and the Hawks (23-1, 6-1) went on a 9-0 run and caught the Rams at 19 on a putback by 6-9 senior Sean Alter 30 seconds into the second half.
With 4:50 left in the third period, Jayden Johnson’s free throw gave his team what would be its final lead of the game, 22-21.
From then on, the Hawks led or were tied, although the Rams (16-9, 3-4 in 1-5A) stayed within striking distance, and it was a one-possession game after a Johnson bucket “and one” made it 36-33 after three quarters.
Even after Hudson Brown sank two free throws with 14.9 seconds to go for a five-point lead, RRHS’s Mikey Wood notched a 3-pointer for 38-36.
Brown was back at the line with 5.7 ticks left and made his first free throw, but missed the second.
Johnson got the rebound and the Rams quickly got the ball to the other end of the court, but Wood had the ball taken away by Anthony Gonzales a moment before the buzzer.
The Hawks were a model of consistency, scoring 11 points in each of the final three quarters, while the Rams’ paltry six-point second quarter was followed by a dismal four-point third period.
Johnson led the Rams with 15 points, giving him 20 games this season with double-figure scoring, although he was just 3 of 7 at the foul line.
The game was won at the line, as the Hawks – led by Kenyon Aguino’s 18 points – were 14 of 19 there, compared to the Rams’ 3 of 10. Aguino was 9 of 11 at the foul line and 1 of 4 from behind the arc.
RRHS coach Wally Salata said, “I can’t worry about that anymore. It’s 25 games in – if we can’t make free throws, we can’t make free throws.
“We’ve gotta make shots. I thought we had a lot of good shots throughout the whole game; the intermediate shots, we didn’t make them,” he said. “We could’ve folded when we were down six; I think it was 34-28 (It was, with 3:56 left to play.). The guys battled. The guys battled their bigs (Alter and Aguino).
“Again: Road game; home team won. Aguino’s a beast.”
And, worse for the District 1-5A teams, he’s only a sophomore.
“I’m happy for our kids. The No. 1 team in the state, and I thought we battled,” Salata added. “The thing is, in two days we’ve got Cleveland and you know how that’s gonna be – there’s a lot on the line that night.”
Dribbles: The Hawks have won their last eight meetings with the Rams, and haven’t lost to Rio Rancho in the Ring of Fire since Feb. 9, 2017. The last Rams victory over VVHS was an 80-74 overtime victory on Feb. 19, 2020, in the RAC.
… Cleveland (19-6, 6-1) kept pace with the Hawks in an 85-53 victory over last-place Cibola on Senior Night Tuesday in the Thunderdome.