Grades are here; who needs more study hall?

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This far into the prep basketball season, there aren’t any more shape-shifters. It’s pretty evident who is who, as teams have, for the most part, cemented their identities. What follows is a midseason report card of the teams in and around Socorro County.

Magdalena
Boys, Grade: B+

Remarks: Trust me, I wanted to assign the Magdalena boys basketball team a higher mark given its tremendous coming of age, but this isn’t a bar mitzvah or a quinceañera.

Basketball teams are ultimately judged by wins and losses and what they do at the end of the year. In that respect, the Steers have won more than they’ve lost, but let’s see what they do if (and when) they make the state tourney.

Also, I’d be remiss to suddenly abandon my stance earlier in the year.

It’s probably inaccurate to say Jory Mirabal has been Steve Alford’s sponsor when it comes to scheduling patsies, because the Steers have played a combined five Class 3-4A teams, beating two of them. But they lost points with me by playing some teams that were clearly inferior to them, like Mountainair. It’s hard to arbitrate how much Magdalena gained experience-wise with wins against 1B Quemado, but at the very least, it was far more dominant in the teams’ second meeting, proving the Steers have come a ways since the beginning of the season.

Girls, Grade: A-

Remarks: You can’t quibble with success. And Wally Sanchez has been nothing if not successful leading the Steers’ girls basketball team. The Steers (12-4, 3-0) looked poised to win District 3-2A, which would guarantee them their ninth straight trip to the state tournament.

Magdalena has now won five straight games, relying on its dynamic inside-outside combo. Alicia Armijo has wreaked havoc under the basket, complemented by the phenomenal perimeter play of point guard Keanda Chavez. The Steers’ bench also showed a penchant for stepping up when it has to, providing the starters a little pick-me-up in a hard-fought win over Tularosa.

SOCORRO
Boys, Grade: C

Remarks: The purest form of mediocrity is personified by .500 basketball, and the Socorro boys basketball team happens to be hovering at that juncture. Yet it’d be negligent to ignore that five of the Warriors’ eight losses have come against teams in the top 10 of the Class 3A coaches poll.

Socorro finished a deathly January stretch that kicked off with Atrisco Heritage and finished with Taos in the semifinals of the Hope Christian School Invitational. Against Taos, Socorro put together its most complete effort of the year, and it still ended in a loss.

On a bright note, Ibrahim Maiga seems to have finally hit his stride after struggling to find his basketball edge at the beginning of the season. Since then, he has become, arguably, the Warriors’ most consistent player on a team where inconsistency has reigned supreme.

Girls, Grade: E

Remarks: It seems former head coach Joseph Garcia had an inkling what direction the Socorro girls basketball team was headed when he stepped down almost two years ago.

It almost seems too harsh to grade this team on an A-F scale, so that’s why it receives an E for effort. The Warriors’ problems have been well-chronicled. They are far too undersized to compete with most teams, and even when their track meet approach works, they miss too many bunnies to compensate. From the perimeter, it’s one of those hit-or-miss prospects, and when Socorro is missing, it cannot account for its lack of second-chance opportunities.

All the same, it has shown the gumption to continue fighting despite an inglorious season — one that doesn’t look to get much better as the District 3-3A season soldiers on.

Despite the losses piling up, the Warriors haven’t slumped their shoulders.

That might have been, in part, thanks to renewed optimist with the start of the District 3-3A season. A win over Hatch Valley or Hot Springs would have catapulted SHS into the thick of the district race — and given them a backdoor to the state tournament — but it got neither. And even without former head coach Walt Sanchez, the Tigers look to be the class of 3-3A, followed closely by the Bears.

At this point for Marleen Greenwood and Co., a successful season cannot be gauged on whether the Warriors make the state tournament, but if they handle the beatable teams remaining on their schedule.

ALAMO NAVAJO
Boys, Grade: I

Remarks: Last time I saw the Alamo Navajo boys basketball team play, it beat Cuba, but it hasn’t quite decided whether it’s a .500 club or not. Thus, the incomplete grade.

Girls, Grade: B+

Remarks: The Alamo Navajo girls basketball team stands at 10-6 and 1-1 in district play. It beat district foe Menaul but fell to To’Hajiilee, which has made an unexpected run at the District 2-1A regular-season title. The Warriors are 3-0 so far, and the Cougars will have to pony up some deep-seated competitiveness if they want to win their first-ever district crown.

 


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