Junior Jayden Johnson “splits” the difference, working his way between two Albuquerque High players Tuesday evening on Jim Hulsman Court. (Herron photo)
ALBUQUERQUE – If Rio Rancho had been better shooting free throws at Bulldog City the evening of Dec. 7, the Rams could have beaten host Albuquerque High by at least 20 points.
Instead, coach Wally Salata was satisfied with his team’s 73-63 victory, despite its woes at the charity stripe – 7 of 16 in the first half, and 20 of 37 for the game, after a respectable 10 of 17 performance there in the decisive fourth quarter.
“It all comes down to free throws,” Salata said. “We shot a ton of free throws.”
AHS (0-4) went to the line only nine times, and made six of therm.
At halftime, with the Rams (3-3) trailing 33-30, Salata said he made some defensive adjustments, among them limiting the Bulldogs’ 3-point shooters to take as many shots, as AHS connected on six treys in the first half – and then just one in the second half.
There had been five lead changes as the teams headed into the fourth quarter, with the Bulldogs holding a 48-45 lead.
At the end of that eight-minute stretch, the Rams out-scored the Bulldogs18-5, as AGHS managed only two field goals, thanks mainly to the Rams’ tenacious defense.
The Rams, with only four field goals in the final period, kept getting fouled as the Bulldogs fought to stay close.
Although he connected on just five of 10 free throws, junior Jayden Johnson scored a game-high 17 points for the Rams. Mikey Wood and Jamal Bynum joined him in double figures with 14 and 12, respectively.
“It’s not just one guy for us,” Salata said. “We spread it around.
“We just gotta make free throws, which we will,” he vowed. “We’re gonna be in every game I thought us going to the basket created a lot of free throws for us.”
Ram dunks: Senior Maddox Presser was injured in the City of Champions Classic in Artesia, where Bynum and Wood made their season debuts after spending the fall with, respectively, soccer and football.
… “To play six games on the road and who we played, I’m ecstatic,” Salata said after the game at AHS. “We’ve got six games coming up at home, so we’ve got to be able to make some noise at home.”
… RRHS will be home Tuesday to face Santa Fe, which was the team’s first home game. They’re then idle until Capital visits the RAC Dec. 21, with three games in as many days Dec. 28-30 for the Jalene Berger Allstate Holiday Hoops Classic.