Cleveland senior Aaliyah Ayanniyi tries to keep a loose ball away from Rams Julia Espinosa, left, and Jemmah Estrada during the city teams’ recent encounter Feb. 22 in the Thunderdome. (Herron photo)
Rio Rancho High School girls’ basketball coach Lori Mabrey figured her team would need a win or two in the District 1-5A tournament to get into the 16-team bracket to be released Feb. 26, and she was probably right.
So right, in fact, that her Rams went out and got two wins: They beat visiting Atrisco Heritage Academy 46-38 the evening of Feb. 21 and then went to Cleveland the next night and beat the district runner-up Storm.
The brief winning streak ended Feb. 24 at Volcano Vista, but the Rams managed to get the 16 seed and qualify for the postseason, which they had not done the past three seasons.
RRHS (14-15) heads to Hobbs to play the No. 1 Eagles (24-3) Friday at 6 p.m.
The No. 13 Storm (15-12) are also on the road, playing at No. 4 Carlsbad (23-5) Friday at 6.
Rams 46, Atrisco Heritage Academy 38: Closing out the first half on an 8-0 run, the Rams grabbed the lead and kept it.
The Jaguars got as close as three in the third period, which ended 29-23 and within three agai9n with 2:43 left in the game.
That final quarter was basically battled from the foul line, where the Jaguars were 11 of 13 and the Rams just 4 of 13.
By game’s end, AHA had scored 16 of its points at the charity stripe, without a field goal in the second stanza, one in the third and two in the fourth.
Makenna Lee led the Rams with 12 points, and was 4 of 7 at the line; Julia Espinosa scored 10 points but was 0 for 3 there.
But a victory is a victory and getting to state is what it’s all about.
“I think (a loss) would have made it iffy,” Mabrey said, knowing team was ranked 16th in 5A by Max Preps, and that’s among the criteria used by the NMAA in determining which 16 teams advance to state.
“We’ve been 16th for about six, seven, eight straight weeks,” she said. “We have been kinda idle there, and the two teams below us, and I don’t think they can win out but we lost to Roswell early and I was afraid that one might come back and bite us in the butt, because they’re kinda right in that mix for getting i.
“So, yeah, I think it was a must-win for us.”
Rams 35, Cleveland 27: Getting out to a 10-4 start as the first period ended the evening of Feb.22didn’t hurt the Rams’ cause in the Thunderdome.
The visitors led at halftime, 18-9, and after three quarters, 26-15. Only a 12-9 fourth quarter made the score respectable, in the same gym where the Storm had beaten the Rams 46-28 five nights earlier.
Lee paced the Rams (14-14) with 18 points. Aubrey Jaramillo led the Storm with 12 before fouling out.
Volcano Vista 73, Rams 43: The third-ranked Hawks (24-3) got out quickly against Rio Rancho and rolled in the District 1-5A girls tournament final over the Rams, who had played the Hawks relatively close in both regular season matchups.
Taejhuan Hill had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Hawks. Guard Faith Ortiz scored 17 for VVHS.
Dribbles: The All-District team was released last week, with Espinosa, Lee and Abi Armijo named to the first team for RRHS. Kindyll Sandoval, KC Winters, Savannah Madueno and Jaramillo are the Storm’s first-teamers.