This time there would be no fourth-quarter comeback by the Storm.
Leading by double-digits over the game’s final 20 minutes Friday night, Rio Rancho secured a tie for second place in District 1-5A with a 74-48 victory at Cleveland.
The Storm (12-14, 2-6) had won their previous 12 meetings with the Rams (15-9, 4-4), which included their come-from-behind 54-46 contest in the RAC on Feb. 1.
“We control our destiny — we win, and I think we can get a home game (for the postseason),” RRHS coach Wally Salata said prior to Friday’s tipoff.
Not only did they get the win, Salata notched his 300th career coaching victory.
The Rams never trailed, leading 16-6 at the end of the first quarter, 36-23 at intermission and then 55-43 going into the fourth quarter, which they closed out on a 15-0 run.
It was Senior Night in the Thunderdome, and Rams senior Keagan Caton led the way for the guests with 22 points; senior teammate Andrew Sanchez came off the bench to supply 13 points, a dozen off 3-pointers.
The pair of CHS seniors, Cole Savage and Antonio Avila, combined for only 13 points.
Speaking of his milestone win, Salata said, “I never thought the basketball gods would say do it to another team we hadn’t beaten in four years.
“I told the kids, we’re a good basketball team,” he said. “We were disappointed the first time we played them at home … to win by 26, I never expected that.”
He does have an expectation he hopes comes true: “I really do believe that we can still be a 6 seed in the state tournament. … We should get a home game.”
Both teams were coming off a district loss two nights earlier, including the Storm’s second loss of the season to Cibola.
Volcano Vista 60, Rams 51: Playing the No. 1 team in the state — and an unbeaten one at that — host Rio Rancho was again no match for Volcano Vista in the RAC Wednesday evening.
Leading by double-digits for 20-some minutes, the district champion Hawks (23-0, 7-0) held off the Rams’ late charge.
“They’re good,” understated Salata. “Defensively, they dictated the second quarter, when we had seven turnovers, and that’s kinda where they got away from us a little bit.”
Rio Rancho never led in the game, with a Jamal Bynum buzzer-beating layup ending the opening period with the Hawks ahead, 17-11.
VVHS opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run to take a double-digit lead with 6:31 left in the first half and maintained that cushion until Mikey Wood hit his team’s only 3-pointer with 1:10 left in regulation to reduce the Rams’ deficit to 56-47.
A Hawks turnover later, Caton scored on a layup to make it 56-49. Six seconds later, the Hawks turned the ball over again, but the Rams were unable to capitalize and didn’t score again, while VVHS closed out the game by making four of six foul shots.
The Hawks managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter, and sank seven free throws to rack up their fifth win in a row over the Rams.
Bynum led the Rams in scoring for the first time this season, with 14 points; Caton had 10. Kaden Valdez, Ja’Kwon Hill and Jaden Malone each had 15 for the Hawks, whose big man 6-8 senior Sean Alter — managed only 4 points.
Cibola 65, Storm 55: The upstart Cougars earned a sweep — their second 10-point win — over visiting Cleveland on Wednesday evening.
The Cougars raced out to an 18-8 lead by the end of the first quarter, and extended their pad to 34-19 at halftime.
The Storm took the third period, 16-9, to trail by eight heading into the fourth quarter. Elijah Brody and Avila had 11 apiece, and Trujillo had 10.
District 1-5A tourney format
Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.: fifth-place Cleveland at fourth-place Cibola;
Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.: Tuesday’s winner at third-place Rio Rancho (AHA is second via the tie-breaker);
Thursday at 5:30 p.m.: Wednesday’s winner at second-place Atrisco Heritage Academy;
Saturday at 7 p.m.: Thursday’s winner at first-place Volcano Vista.