Freshman Chris Lucero, left, was fouled on this first-quarter attempt. He supplied 11 points off the bench in the loss to the Jaguars Wednesday evening in the RAC. (Herron photo)


The Rio Rancho High School boys’ basketball team took a step backward the evening of Feb. 8, when a couple of missed free throws in the fourth quarter and an errant play to win on a buzzer-beater.

That 53-50 loss to visiting Atrisco Heritage Academy gave the edge to the Jaguars if the two teams are tied in the district standings after the regular season ends next week.

And Cleveland (17-6, 4-1) can take advantage of that Rams loss with a win tonight (Feb. 10) at AHA (19-5, 3-3). Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Rams (15-8, 2-3) have a 7 p.m. tip down the hill at last-place Cibola tonight.

Neither team led by more than six points throughout the game, and there were six leads changes in the fourth quarter.

The Rams took a 39-38 lead into the final eight minutes, with the Jaguars tying the game at 46 and then taking the lead on the second of two free throws by Latavious Morris, who finished with a game-high 15 points, with 3:04 showing on the clock.

Jayden Johnson’s layup with 2:43 to go gave the Rams what would be their last lead, 48-47.

After a basket by AHA’s Lorenzo Pacheco made it 49-48, Johnson was at the foul line for two shots – and missed both, after making his first three earlier in the game.

Morris was fouled again with 35.1 seconds left, made both and the Rams were down by three, 51-48.

The Rams turned the ball over less than nine seconds later, and the Jaguars made them pay, with a slam dunk by Antonio Ortiz.

Hanging from the rim longer than the officials thought was reasonable cost him a technical and put the Rams’ Maddox Presser at the line, and his pair of free throws made it 53-50.

Thanks to a Jaguars turnover in the waning seconds, the Rams had an opportunity to tie the game – if they could sink a 3-pointer.

That’s when they didn’t run the play Salata had for them, as Jamal Bynum – who’d beaten the Jaguars on a buzzer-beater on their court – missed his trey.

“We didn’t execute at the end,” he said. “They didn’t run the play that we were supposed to run. (After) a timeout, if you can’t run the play, it’s frustrating.

“I mean, we’re down three; we need a 3-point shot,” he explained. “If we run our ‘stagger’ play and don’t get our screens, then the play’s not going to work. We were supposed to set two screens, drive and then we had two 3-point shooters in the corners, and that didn’t develop.

“It shouldn’t have come down to that. I thought there were too many turnovers, times when we threw the ball away,” he said. “Against a team like this, you can’t have 15 turnovers. They did a great job defensively on us. Every time we drove, they cut the lanes off.  We did a horrible job – they just drove to the basket.”

Johnson led the Rams with 12 points, with Jerry Archuleta and freshman Chris Lucero coming off the bench to sink three 3s and score 11 apiece; the Rams’ bench outscored the Jaguars reserves by a decisive 22-5.