Who would have thought Thursday evening before the Rio Rancho High School girls’ basketball game with visiting Cleveland could be a victory for the Rams?
RRHS coach Scott Peterson did, even though his team was coming off an embarrassing loss at Volcano Vista two nights earlier and the Storm had beaten his Rams in six of their last seven meetings.
Regardless of the outcome for Thursday’s Rio Rancho-Cleveland girls basketball game played in the RAC, the Storm were destined to finish in second place in District 1-5Aand the Rams were guaranteed third place.
Rams 31, Storm 28: The Rams (12-13, 4-4) led from start to finish in defeating their city foe.
The Rams assumed control early, leading 13-4 at the end of the first quarter; leading by as many as eight in the second period, with a 19-17 lead at halftime; and with at least a six-point lead in the third quarter.
The Storm (16-10, 5-3) had several chances to tie the game, including 1.6 seconds before halftime, when Aubrey Jaramillo missed two free throws.
The fourth quarter was foul-plagued, and the Rams scored all 6 of their points at the charity stripe; the final margin could have been larger, but they missed 6 free throws.
A layup by Allyson Frank cut the margin to three and CHS coach Susan Kubala called a timeout with 9.8 seconds to go.
RRHS’s Olivia Bergsten was quickly fouled, but she also missed two free throws and the Storm were unable to nail a trey in the 3.8 seconds left.
By game’s end, the Rams had gone more than 13 minutes without a field goal.
RRHS’s Alice Wilkinson had a game-high 11 points, including a 6-of-7 outing at the foul line. Bergsten, returning from a three-game absence due to an elbow injury, notched three 3s for all her points.
Frank led the Storm with 8 points.
“I’ll say this: We have been in a lot of close basketball games this whole year, and it’s cost us, right?” Peterson said. “We’ve told this team all yera long that they practiced hard enough; they deserve to win.
“We made it really hard tonight for ourselves — you make free throws (RRHS was 11 of 19 at the line), it’s a lot easier.”
Storm 48, Cibola 40: Cleveland watched as a 22-point lead over visiting Cibola dissolved into a two-possession game with 64 seconds remaining, but managed to hold on Tuesday evening for a key 1-5A victory, locking up second place in the final district standings.
Cleveland ripped the Cougars 15-4 in the second period to extend what had been a 16-12 lead at the end of the opening quarter to a 31-16 lead at halftime.
The Storm took a seemingly safe 43-25 edge into the fourth quarter, made close when the Cougars opened it on a 15-2 run.
But after Cibola closed the gap to 45-40, senior guard Angelique Abeyta came up with a loose ball with about 42 seconds to go. Fouled twice in the time that remained, another senior — after all, it was Senior Night — Bridgett Ignacio sank three foul shots for the final 8-point margin.
Brenna Wolfe led the Storm with 14 points and Ignacio added 12. Makenna Lee led the Coogs with a game-high 17.
“We thought the game was over earlier than it was. We quit defending and Cibola, to their credit, kept at it and at it and at it,” Kubala said. “They’re just competing, and I told our kids, ‘You’ve got to be ready for four quarters.’”
Volcano Vista 65, Rams 6: In the Ring of Fire at VVHS on Tuesday, the Rams set a school record they may never want to obliterate, handed their worst loss in school history.
The previous low for scoring in a game by the Rams girls had been in Amarillo, when they lost to Canyon High, 59-11, in December 2010.
“I was out three starters,” explained Peterson, also missing a regular due to health problems.

District 1-5A tourney format:
Tuesday at 7 p.m.: fifth-place Atrisco Heritage Academy at fourth-place Cibola;
Wednesday at 7* p.m.: Tuesday’s winner at third-place Rio Rancho;
Thursday at 7* p.m.: Wednesday’s winner at second-place Cleveland;
Saturday at 5:30 p.m.: Thursday’s winner at first-place Volcano Vista.
(* game time could be adjusted to 5:30 if a boys’ game is scheduled for the same day at same site.)

CHS guard Angelique Abeyta finds the going tough in the paint in the first half Thursday in the RAC. (Herron photo)