“Our state game against Carlsbad was hard-fought from beginning to end,” Storm coach Susan Kubala
Crosby, Stills & Nash sang in 1969, “It’s been a long time coming.”
It happened for the City of Vision’s four high school basketball teams this month.
For the first time since the 2012-13 season, not a single team advanced as far as the state quarterfinals.
Yes, that’s literally been a long time for continued success, which included state championships in 2016 for the Rams boys and 2021 for the Storm boys.
Three of the city’s four teams received bids to the state “dance,” with only the Rio Rancho High School girls omitted, for what was the third season in a row.
One by one, the trio of qualifiers bit the dust:
• On March 4 in Carlsbad, the sixth-seeded Storm girls (16-12) lost in Carlsbad, 36-34.
• On March 5, within less than a half-hour, the seventh-seeded Rio Rancho boys (16-11) were upset in the RAC by Carlsbad, 49-47, and then the 11th-seeded Storm boys (13-16) lost in Los Lunas, 59-53. The Storm had been 10-3 in early January, then hit the skids, losing 13 of their final 16 games.
Back in that 2012-13 season, the Storm boys were a dismal 6-20 and missed the state tournament for the second year in a row; the Cleveland girls lost in the first round at Mayfield, 56-33.
The Rams boys and girls had their seasons end in first-round contests at Eldorado High school: 79-67 in the boys’ game, 63-48 in the girls’ game.
Longtime Rams coach Wally Salata said he has three great team memories and one personal highlight from this season.
His best team memory, he said, came when his Rams snapped a 12-game losing streak in its games with Cleveland; the Rams now have their own two-game winning streak over the Storm.
Not far behind on the short list is “winning our Holiday Hoops tournament for the third year in a row,” and later being “seeded seventh in the state tournament after playing the toughest schedule in the state at any level.”
Salata’s personal memory, easy to understand, came when he won his 300th game, which came the same night the Rams snapped their skid vs. Cleveland.
Eternally optimistic, Salata said after “losing only three seniors (Andrew Sanchez, Keagan Caton and Jeremiah Morris) — and with the return of four starters — we should be one of the top 10 teams in 5A next year.
“We should compete for a district championship and be in the mix for a state championship,” Salata added.
Coach Scott Peterson had the second-biggest crew of seniors in the city: eight: Alice Wilkinson, Jamie Mondragon, Isabella Schalow, Dominique Sutherland, Georgia Salata, Olivia Bergsten, Daniela Orozco and Kira Parisian.
His best memory of the season came when the Rams won three of their last four games of the year. “We finally had all our girls back from injuries and COVID and we were able to get to the championship game of the district tournament.
“The girls never stopped believing in their ability to win and they had faith in me as a coach, in themselves and their teammates,” he said. “They played hard until the end. … Despite some of the challenges, this team was resilient and was one of my most-fun teams to coach.”
“The 2021-22 game that will stick with me is the Feb. 10 Cibola loss (55-49 at Cibola),” he said. “We were missing two starters to injury and another key bench player due to health reasons and still almost won.”
“Overall, we had a very good season,” Storm coach Susan Kubala said. “Our state game against Carlsbad was hard-fought from beginning to end. We just didn’t have some shot drop in, but got a great look at the buzzer for a 3-ball. The ball went in and out.
“I’m very proud of our team. We fought through a lot of adversity with injuries and illness throughout the season and didn’t have a complete roster for the entire year, but continued to battle throughout.
“With the loss of nine seniors (Angelique Abeyta, Brenna Wolfe, Mia Nelson, Isabella Goss, Jasmine Varela, Kennedy Ulmer, Yolanda Muñoz, Allyson Frank and Bridgett Ignacio) from this year’s team, we will be young in terms of experience, but I fully expect the girls to step up and compete (next season),” Kubala said. “We might have a different look to the style we will play, but I really look forward to what next season will bring.”
It’s hard to imagine how a basketball team with seven consecutive final four appearances and last year’s state title can fall apart, but it happened for coach Sean Jimenez and the Storm.
“My best memory of the season was getting to the championship game in the Hobbs Holiday Tournament,” he said, although the Storm lost that contest.
“The 2021-22 memory that will stick the longest is the kids that are in our program — hard workers, great students and just a blessing to be around,” he said.
The Storm lose two seniors, Antonio Avila and Cole Savage, often their leading scorers.
“We are very optimistic about next year,” Jimenez said. “We have high standards in our program, and we expect to compete for state championships.”
Dribbles: Former RRHS boys coach Brian Smith, who preceded Jimenez at Cleveland, led his Portola (Irvine, Cal.) Bulldogs to a 16-8 overall mark this season, which ended for Smith and PHS in a 55-52 loss to El Dorado (Placentia) in the Southern Section championship round. Like he had done at Cleveland in 2009, Smith built the Portola program from scratch, and has seen steady improvement: 15-15 in 2018-19; 18-12 in ’19-20; and 10-7 in the ’20-21 pandemic season.
… No surprise at state: Volcano Vista met Hobbs again Friday evening in The Pit for the 5A girls’ championship. The unbeaten Hawks nipped the Eagles at the buzzer in last year’s 5A title tilt.