Daniel Steverson (5) and teammate Josia Ortiz (12) stay close to the action in the paint in the Storm’s victory over West Las Vegas. (Gary Herron/Observer)
You could look it up.
Over the past seven high school basketball seasons, both of Rio Rancho’s boys’ teams have hoisted the shiny blue trophy indicative of a state championship.
Rio Rancho High School, which won its first championship in 2007, won it all on March 12, 2016, after a 56-54 victory over Carlsbad.
Five years later, albeit in a pandemic-shortened season and three years after falling in the championship game, Cleveland High School beat Las Cruces 55-49 to claim the title.
Naturally, that’s the dream of every team in the state – to hoist that trophy in The Pit before thousands of admirers. And, just as naturally, a lot of teams and their coaches know it probably won’t happen when March rolls around.
Not so in the City of Vision, where Wally Salata and his Rams (16-11 last season), and Sean Jimenez and his Storm (13-16), annually expect to make it to the big dance.
Both have been taking their 2022-23 teams to myriad camps, hoping to improve their players’ skills against competition, and last week – in their own gyms – that was again the case. The City of Vision Team Camp was held, with competition at all three levels for their programs – varsity, junior varsity and freshman. Games started at the top of each hour, with 20-minute halves and a running clock.
RRHS varsity won four of six games
“We lost to Highland and Farmington by single digits,” said Salata, pleased to have 6-foot, 6-inch senior Austin Ford back in action and playing his first game since suffering a foot injury last February.
“His size helped with rebounding and gave the team a post presence in the middle,” Salata said, lamenting that his team’s other “big,” fellow senior Maddox Presser “is still recovering from a broken bone in his ankle. When Maddox returns, he will give us good size in the post to go along with Austin.”
The Rams – 22-7 in their summer games — also lacked Jamal Bynum, another senior, who has been playing lately with the New Mexico United 18-and-under soccer team.
“If he can somehow play next season, the team will be better. Mikey Wood suffered a minor leg injury during team camp. He did not play the last two days of camp for precautionary reasons. We are expecting Mikey to be our team leader next season. He also plays wide receiver for the Rams football team,” Salata added. “We did not play this summer at full strength. We will be a different team in November. One thing we can’t do next season is fall behind by double-digits in the first half like we did in a couple of games this summer. The team did respond to make those games close at the end, but we did not win any of those games.”
Salata said his players need to work harder on defense, keeping the ball-handler in front of them.
“Too many times the opponent was blowing by us without much resistance,” he said. “Overall, I was very happy with our team defense, considering we didn’t have a post presence for most of the summer. Throughout the summer we moved JV players to varsity and C-team players to JV when we didn’t have numbers. It was a good opportunity for the coaches to evaluate these players at all levels.”
The Rams JV finished its summer session with a 23-1 record. The freshman team went 19-2.
CHS varsity was unbeaten in six games
In the City of Vision event, Jimenez said his teams won 16 times and lost only three times.
The varsity, which before the 2021-22 season had made the Class 5A “final four” seven seasons in a row – dating back to former head coach Brian Smith’s 60-56 loss to Hobbs in the 2015 championship game — won all six of its games.
“I was really happiest about how smooth the tournament ran and the quality of the teams that were at the tournament,” he said, sounding a bit like the coach on the other side of Northern Boulevard.
“Our biggest concern is on the defensive side of the ball. Can we defend and rebound at a high-enough level to make a run at the blue trophy?” he wondered. “Our team shooting has to get better and our team defense (does, too). If we can shore up those areas, we can make a run.”