Laguna’s fast-paced ‘O’ overruns Steers

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It was Pizzazz vs. Patience, two warring styles involved in a culture clash of epic proportions in an ear-splitting environment.

Would it be fifth-ranked Laguna Acoma, a team that mastered controlled chaos — its uptempo game making the “Bohemian Rhapsody” beat seem slow? Or would it be the Magdalena boys basketball team, deliberate to a point where its offensive half-court sets were rigidly structured?

Thursday night’s game was a true testament of will, and to a man, the Steers were better than the Hawks at imposing their will — for a half. They subjugated the pace, but the second half belonged to Laguna (14-0, 2-0) and it ran the Steers (11-5, 2-1) ragged, forcing countless fourth-quarter turnovers and quick, unproductive offensive possessions on the way to a 59-41 district win.

Magdalena head coach Jory Mirabal was incensed at his team’s sudden abandonment of its brand of basketball, and he couldn’t quite figure out why the Steers deserted what was successful and engaged the Hawks in a foot race to the finish line.

“We just aren’t good at jungle ball,” he said. “We’re not used to running around the floor and jacking up crap and not running on offense. And when we decide to play that style of ball, it’s out of our nature. As long as we play good, solid, disciplined basketball, we’re fine. But if we want to come out here and run around like a bunch of clowns, they’re a lot better at that then we are.”

The crowd had plenty to “ooh” and “ahh” about.

Laguna erased a six-point lead and possessed a slim 41-35 advantage heading into the final quarter. Then Magdalena decided to lay an egg, and the Hawks did what hawks do — they swooped in and feasted off the Steers’ innumerable errors. They outscored Magdalena 18-5 in the final frame.

Their full-court trap was aided by a laissez faire approach on the part of the officials, who, for the most part, swallowed their whistles and allowed both teams to play. The discrepancy didn’t show up on the stat sheet, where both teams were almost dead even in penalties — Magdalena was called for 18 fouls to LHS’ 19.

But the hands-off approach was most pronounced in the fourth quarter.

After one particular play, it was clear the Steers weren’t going to get calls. Dre Montoya dashed up court, dribbling through three Laguna defenders. He was bumped and tumbled to the hardwood. The ball squirted loose, and a mob of players gathered to retrieve it. Before Montoya could peel himself off the ground, Magdalena was rung up for a loose-ball foul.

Mirabal, who, unlike most coaches, sits on the bench for a majority of the game, leaped to his feet, calling the official over for an explanation of the sequence. When asked about that play afterward, Mirabal was still on edge.

“What can you imagine I’d tell the ref after they tackled Dre?” he said. “Use your imagination.”

“The foul discrepancy can kiss my butt. That’s the stupidest stat in the whole world. We’re playing a half-court trap. They’re playing a full-court zone trap into a man and doubling every ball. Who’s gonna have more fouls? That’s the same crap the refs were (saying). ‘The fouls are even, coach.’ Don’t gimme the, ‘Oh, it’s even on the board.’”

If nothing else, the Hawks clearly had the advantage in speed. With a lead in hand, they could pull the ball out to half court and wait till Madgalena challenged them. That led to frequent wide-open lanes to the hoop that resulted in uncontested layups.

Anthony Carpio, in particular, carved out pathways to the basket seemingly at will. He scored 10 of his 25 points in the final quarter. His most house-rocking play came on a one-on-one opportunity with about six minutes to go. He drove hard to the right, but wrapped the ball around the basket, finishing cleanly with his left hand.

The Hawks were a highlight reel waiting to happen, the fire to the Steers’ ice. On one beautiful exchange, Carpio dove for a loose ball, tipping it to teammate Elijah Ruben, who then fired a no-look touch pass ahead to Josh Paytiamo. He blew the layup, but collected the rebound and scored.

Austin Jones had 17 points for the Hawks. Miles Parscal finished with 19 points to lead the Steers, but was held scoreless in the fourth — symbolic of the Steers’ absconding entry passes and looks into the post.

Parscal said Magdalena simply got away from its flow and was discombobulated in the final eight minutes.

“We just started trying to play our own game,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure why. Once things started going downhill, it just snowballed. I don’t know if we freaked out, but we tried to hurry and score. We did some dumb things.”

MAGDALENA 65, LAGUNA ACOMA 45: Forget Take Your Parent to School Day.

The Magdalena district might have to create an entirely new day to accommodate forward Alicia Armijo. She put on a scoring clinic Thursday, pumping in a career-best 32 points, as the Steers’ girls basketball team closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run after watching the Hawks rally from an eight-point deficit to tie it at 33-all.

To head coach Wally Sanchez’s surprise, when he looked down at the stat sheet, Armijo’s column was stuffed, particularly in the fourth quarter when she produced 10 of her 32 points.

Point guard Keanda Chavez’s brilliant 16-point, 16-assist performance was somewhat upstaged by Armijo’s dominance, although Sanchez said Armijo amassed her points in a rather understated manner and struggled for the greater part of the first half.

“It wasn’t a flamboyant 32. It was a workman-like 32,” he said. “A lot of her points were off second and third efforts.”

And the Steers needed second and third efforts to put away the Hawks for good. Even after Laguna closed the gap, Sanchez took a Phil Jackson approach: He didn’t call a timeout, allowing his girls to pull themselves out of trouble.

“I just sat down and let them play through it,” Sanchez said. “Every group is different, but they kept their composure and pulled it out there.”

The Steers had a decided 25-8 advantage on the boards, as the Hawks’ one-and-done possessions eventually sapped their energy. Lacey Natseway finished with 17 points for Laguna.

 


-- Email the author at iavilucea@dchieftain.com.