Cleveland High’s Savannah Madueno (24) is outnumbered in this photo from Wednesday night’s game in the RAC, with Rams (from left) Tamiera Smyth, Abigayle Armijo, Makenna Lee and Julia Espinosa in the neighborhood in first-half action. (Herron photo)



Just like the boys’ city rivalry varsity game played one night earlier, the home team held court Wednesday for an important 42-39 District 1-5A victory, which put the Rams in second place at the halfway point.

It turned out to basically be a 5½ minute contest the evening of Feb. 1, as Rio Rancho (11-10, 3-1)  led throughout the game, save for early 1-0, 2-0 and 3-1 Cleveland leads, until the Storm used an 89-0 run and caught the Rams at 30, with 5:24 to go.

The teams traded field goals and free throws the rest of the way: Cleveland went up, 34-32 and the Rams went ahead, 35-34.

The Storm took their final lead, 36-35, on two free throws by KC Winters.

That’s when the turning point occurred: Eighth-grader Jemmah Estrada scored on a layup with 1:05 left in regulation for a 37-36 Rams lead, but the Storm turned the ball over and then fouled Abigayle Armijo, who sank her first free throw and then, after she missed the second, chased down the rebound in front of the Rams’ pep band.

She passed the ball inside, where teammate Jayme Archuleta was fouled, and when Archuleta missed a shot and then made the second one, 39.5 seconds was showing on the clock and the Rams had a 39-36 edge.

After Malia Mose missed from long range, Aaliyah Ayanniyi scored on the putback to make it 39-38 and CHS coach Susan Kubala called a timeout.

Hoping to get the ball back, the Storm fouled Tamiera Smyth, who made one of her two free throws to make it 40-38, and the Storm turned the ball over again for the 18th and final time. Savannah Madueno fouled Smyth, and this time she missed both free throws.

Ayanniyi snagged the rebound and, at the other end of the floor, Aubrey Jaramillo was fouled, and after she made only one of the two free throws, the Rams led 40-39, but only 11.4 seconds were left.

Time to foul again: Malia Mose fouled Archuleta, who made both free throws for 42-39, and that left 8.4 ticks on the clock and the Storm needing a 3-pointer to tie it.

KIndyll Sandoval, Cleveland’s best outside shooter, missed her open attempt – she’d made three 3s previously – and the Rams survived.

Neither team was accurate from 15 feet: The Storm were 11 of 19 from the foul line; the Rams were 12 of 27.

Estrada led the Rams with 12 points and Archuleta added 11. Sandoval led CHS with 12.

“(Archuleta’s) a good scorer,” coach Lori Mabrey said. “After the Los Alamos game, she talked with me on the way home on the bus, and I think she’s really serious about really turning her game to a different level. She shot in the gym before the game tonight, by herself, and I just knew she was gonna be ready to play basketball.”

Now, one game over .500 for the season and four more district games to go, Mabrey said, “I told the girls if they thought ‘Round 1’ was tough, ‘Round 2’ is gonna be even tougher.

“We have been steadily improving, and I really hope our girls start to believe that we have a good basketball team.”

Dribbles: The night before the Rams beat the Storm, they’d also scored 42 points but lost. Host Los Alamos edged the Rams 43-42, with Julia Espinosa scoring 13 and Makenna Lee adding 11 for the Rams. “We go through these droughts, where we don’t score for a long period of time,” Mabrey said. “We came out really flat in the third quarter.”

… In the sub-varsity games Wednesday in the RAC:

  • The Rams’ C team won, 40-23. Isavella Cabrera led the Storm with 9 points; Serena McHugh had 20 and Kaci McHugh 13 for the Rams.
  • In the JV game, the Storm rallied from a 33-29 deficit after three quarters to take a 40-37 victory. Alyssa Curley led CHS with 11 points; Dakota Braught led the Rams with 8. It was just the Rams’ second loss of the season; they have 16 wins.

… Next week, the Rams are home Tuesday to face Atrisco Heritage Academy, and then home again Thursday to meet Cibola. Both game start at 7 p.m.

… The Storm are home to face Volcano Vista Friday evening at 7, then home again Thursday to face Atrisco Heritage Academy at 7.