: Cleveland’s Kindyll Sandoval (22) confronts Rams guard Abby Armijo in first-half action at the Thunderdome Friday evening.



The Cleveland High Schools girls’ basketball team defended its Thunderdome floor successfully Friday night, easily defeating Rio Rancho, 46-28.

The victory left the Storm (15-11, 5-3) in second place in District 1-5A. The Rams (12-14, 4-4) finished third, and very well could be back at Cleveland this week in the district semifinal game*, and that game’s winner then heads to Volcano Vista for the 1-5A championship Friday evening at 7.

The Rams looked ready to sweep the Storm early, having defeated Cleveland 42-39 in their Feb. 1 meeting in the RAC, and ahead 11-7 when the first quarter ended.

The Storm won the second quarter, 13-4, with the Rams’ last lead at 15-14. CHS scored the final six points of the second stanza and the first three points of the second half and were never tied nor behind again.

A pair of free throws and a basket by Makenna Lee got the Rams within a sole possession, 26-23, but the Storm did an encore of the second quarter and scored the last seven points of the third quarter.

Leading comfortably, 33-23, after three periods, the Storm’s fourth-quarter lead wavered between 10 and the final 18-point margin.

Lee finished with a game-high 14 points.

The Storm were led by point guard Aubrey Jaramillo’s 13 points; Savannah Madueno added 10.

In their regular-season penultimate contests Feb. 15, the Storm won “down the hill” while district champ Volcano Vista held off a late charge in the RAC.

Cleveland 43, Cibola 37: Trailing early, Kindyll Sandoval’s second of four 3-pointers, coming late in the opening quarter, gave the Storm a 14-13 lead and they never trailed again.

Unfortunately, Sandoval, who led the Storm with 12 points, injured her left shoulder and missed the entire second quarter, but was back for the second half.

Cleveland upped its lead to 25-17 at halftime, and led by double digits, 38-28, heading into the fourth quarter.

The Cougars battled back to make it 38-34, but a 3 by Aubrey Sandoval gave her team some breathing room and although Cleveland managed only five points in the fourth quarter, Cibola couldn’t take advantage of errant shots by the Storm.

You could say the Storm had a balanced attack in the Cougars’ lair: seven 3s, seven 2s and eight free throws.

“I told the kids its’s their Senior Night and they’ll come out with emotion,” Storm coach Susan Kubala said.

Volcano Vista 49, Rio Rancho 40: Trailing by 13 at halftime and down by as many as 19 in the second half, the host Rams gave it their best in the fourth quarter, reducing the deficit to seven before succumbing to the Hawks (22-3, 7-0).

Along the way RRHS eighth-grader Jemmah Estrada had a 6-0 run of her own, all from the foul line.

Although not known for their long-range prowess, four of the Rams’ first five field goals were 3-pointers.

Tamiera Smyth was the lone Ram in double figures with 10 points.

Dribbles: In the latest MaxPreps rankings, among the criteria used by the NMAA in seeding the 16-team postseason tournament, Cleveland was No. 15 and the Rams were one slot behind them.

… The district tournament format had the Rams at home Tuesday to face the winner of the Cibola-Atrisco Heritage Academy game. Tuesday’s winner then played at the Storm Wednesday, and that game’s winner heads to Volcano Vista Friday for the 7 p.m. championship game.

… Seedings for the Class5A state tournament are expected to be released Sunday by the NMAA (nmact.org).

… The varsity victory kept the Rams from a sweep. In the sub-varsity games:

  • Hunnie Thomas had 13 points and Kaci McHugh had 12 in the Rams’ C-team win, 40-34.
  • Latoya Spradling had a dozen points and Daysia Jack and Naomi Frances-Bee came up with 10- apiece in the Rams JV’s 50-31 victory.

No Cleveland players scored in double figures in either game.


(* Here’s the girls’ district tournament slate; games at 7 p.m.)

Tonight (Monday): Cibola at Atrisco Heritage Academy

Tuesday: Monday’s winner at Rio Rancho.

Wednesday: Tuesday’s winner at Cleveland.

Friday : Wednesday’s winner at Volcano Vista for championship.