Daniel Steverson drives toward the basket. He led the second-half comeback, scoring 17 of his team-high 18 along the way. (Herron photo)
Whether it was Cleveland High’s greatest comeback in history or not, the Storm’s remarkable second-half rally to deny No. 1 Volcano Vista a shot at the state’s record for consecutive wins (53 is the mark) won’t soon be forgotten.
The Storm (14-5, 1-0 in District 1-5A) fell behind early, with their last lead 8-6 and after a horrific second quarter – outscored 24-2 is horrific at best – they trailed 32-11 at halftime. When Volcano Vista’s super sophomore, Kenyon Aguino, sank a free throw 17 seconds into the second half, the Hawks (18-1) seemed poised to cruise to their 48th victory in a row.
No doubt, some fans were checking their cellphones to see the score of the AFC divisional contest between Kansas City and Jacksonville, wondering, “Should I stay or should I go?”
Those who stayed saw the Storm’s incredible rally, as they whittled the deficit to 42-38 heading into the fourth period, behind 7 points each from Daniel Stev4rson and Remy Albrecht, plus another 5 from Nic Trujillo.
The Storm caught the Hawks at 48 on a layup by Daniel Steverson with 2;57 to play, which started a 7-2 run to end the game.
Volcano’s Anthony Gonzales missed a half-court shot at the buzzer that would have meant overtime.
Steverson finished with a team-high 18 points, with 17 in the decisive second half. Albrecht added 13 for the Storm, but uncharacteristically missed two free throws that would have iced the win with 2.9 seconds left.
Aguino led the Hawks with 20; VVHS’s Sean Alter had 9, but missed most of the fourth quarter after a hard fall 12 seconds into the final period.
“We expect to win every game,” CHS coach Sean Jimenez said, “but when you’re down that much, you can’t look at the outcome; you’ve got to look at possession by possession – if we can keep chipping away, chipping away, maybe we’ll be in it at the end of the game.”
Obviously, that paid off.
Also playing a role was the way the Storm took care of the ball, with only six turnovers – none in the fourth quarter – while playing their usual feisty defense that led to 16 Hawks turnovers.
The Storm are home Tuesday to entertain Atrisco Heritage Academy; they’re at Cibola Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Rio Rancho 53, Atrisco Heritage Academy 51: Jamal Bynum’s buzzer-beating, six-foot bank shot gave the visiting Rams a victory over the third-ranked Jaguars on the evening of Jan. 19.
It was the District 1-5A opener for the unranked Rams (13-5), the first team this season other than Sandia to beat Atrisco Heritage (16-3, 1-1); the Jags beat Cibola on Wednesday in their 1-5A opener.
“It was our goal to try and come in here and take one, and I’m glad we could do it,” said Bynum, the Rams’ senior point guard who scored all of his 13 points in the second half.
AHA’s Brandon Lopez came in off the bench to shoot free throws for an injured Mathias Sanchez, who banged his head on the floor on a drive to the basket, resulting in two foul shots. Lopez missed the first but made the second to tie the game at 51 with 1:00 remaining.
Sanchez came back in and was at the line with a chance to put the Jaguars in front, but he missed two free throws with 30 seconds left. Atrisco got the ball back after the second miss, but turned it over on a travel with 17.9 seconds left.
Rio Rancho called a late timeout to set up a play that would either win it or lead the teams to overtime.
Bynum took the inbounds pass, worked his way into the lane, and, off balance, nailed the game-winner.
“It was either Jamal driving off a staggered screen … he had the option of taking the shot or kicking it to Maddox (Presser),” Rams coach Wally Salata said.
Rio Rancho missed about half a dozen shots within 3 feet of the basket in the final quarter, when AHA went ice cold from the line.
“We won the fourth quarter, 11-7, so our defense was good when we needed it,” Salata said.
Bynum led the Rams with his 13, and Jayden Johnson ended up with 10.
Rio Rancho had 22 turnovers, according to Salata, and the Jaguars had only 14.
“Another key stat,” noted Salata. “AHA was 4 of 13 from 3-point range and Rio Rancho was 4 of 8.”
Although most coaches prefer their players to shoot 70 percent or better from the foul line, the Rams were just 9 of 18.
“The thing about our district is, it’s a grind,” said Salata. “To win on the road … today was an important step for us.”
After a visit from Cibola on Wednesday (Jan. 25), the Rams are back in the RAC again Friday to meet No. 1 Volcano Vista.