It wasn’t so much that the Quemado boys basketball team regressed. It was that Magdalena progressed, hardened by rough-and-tumble games throughout the year, including a pair of affairs against ranked opponent Shiprock.

The Steers’ maturation was obvious Friday night, as they scored a 51-37 win over rival Quemado, earning their first season sweep over the Eagles since the 2005 campaign. The game wasn’t as competitive as when the teams first met in Magdalena’s season opener, with the Steers opening a 24-point lead that never fell below 14 in the second half.

“I never felt we were in jeopardy,” head coach Jory Mirabal said. “I knew they weren’t gonna roll over for us, but as far as having control of the game, that was never in doubt.”

The Eagles, under first-year head coach David Lackey, graduated many of the critical cogs that pushed them to the Class 1B state championship last year. Lackey is still unrolling his system, and the Eagles have been far too reliant on point guard Juan Flores. As he goes, so does Quemado, but his tires never got greased Friday night. The Steers limited him to 10 points.

“Juan’s pretty much what they got, and they use him a lot,” Mirabal said. “I don’t think they had improved as much as we had. But the first year is tough, especially when you have a bunch of kids coming in expecting to do what they’ve never done before. We’ve all been there before.”

Dre Montoya led Magdalena with 18 points. Daniel Hand had 11.

Mirabal said rivalries are usually give-and-take, but the past two years have been lopsided in one team’s favor. Last year, it was Quemado; this year, the Steers.

“You might be able to go and rub it in their face one year, but the next year it might be very different,” he said. “We weren’t over there to make any statements.”


Steers’ head coach Wally Sanchez called Saturday’s game against the Wildcats a “war.”

Well, wars are typically won by born tacticians — and Sanchez happens to be one of the best.

Sanchez has used hockey line changes throughout the year, inserting a fresh five at a predetermined time and staggering the substitutions based on position. That has afforded his players the wherewithal to be called upon in a moment’s notice.

The time came Saturday.

With a handful of Steers’ starters burdened by foul trouble, Sanchez tapped his bench, and it broke through for 30 of Magdalena’s 58 points. It put up 15 of those in the second quarter, as the Steers outscored the the Wildcats 24-19 to stretch their halftime lead to 34-24.

“It was a war,” Sanchez said. “We needed all the help we could get. On any given night, you can’t focus on certain people on our team because other people will step it up and come through.”

Ashley Tafoya filled in for point guard Keanda Chavez, who spent an inordinate amount of time sitting in a padded folding chair. Montoya scored 10 points in Chavez’s place and was most industrious in breaking Tularosa’s press. The Wildcats stubbornly refused to funnel back into half-court man, even though their pressure generated only 10 turnovers and allowed frequent layups for the Steers.

“Somebody’s out there is saying press us, and they got in some foul trouble, and we got layups,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know who’s is telling them to press us, but keep on tellin’ ‘em. It’s to our advantage.”

The Steers had three players, including Tafoya, in double figures. Alicia Armijo, who scored a career-high 32 points against Laguna Acoma, had a modest 10 points. Kameron Armstrong also finished with 10.


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