Estancia no match for matchstrike Steers

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Two shots.

One half.

Essentially, that’s all it took for the Magdalena boys basketball team (15-6, 3-0) to put away Estancia (5-12, 1-4) in Thursday night’s District 3-2A encounter.

Dre Montoya hit a pair of back-breaking 3s just before the halftime buzzer to push the Steers’ lead to 12 points. It seemed to deflate the Bears, who to that point, seemed gloved up and prepared for a slugfest.

Instead it turned into to drudgefest, the Steers cruising to a 50-35 win inside Steers gym. There was never so much as a scrap of doubt in the second half about who’d come out victorious, despite what Steers’ head coach Jory Mirabal would have you believe.

“It’s hard to say you put a nail in the coffin after a half,” he said. “We were just joking about it. You don’t feel comfortable with a 12-point lead at halftime. This time of year, in February, everyone is stepping up their game because they realize they don’t have a bunch of games left.”

Montoya hit a trio of treys in the first half — the latter two which came 22 seconds apart — on the way to 15 points. He wouldn’t score the rest of the way, but the Steers wouldn’t need him to. Estancia never drew closer than 10 points.

“That’s how we got our gap — him coming out and hitting some of those shots,” Mirabal said. “It definitely gave us momentum. That little lift we needed.”

It also gave them the separation they longed for in the District 3-2A race and helped them keep pace with current leader Laguna Acoma (18-0, 5-0). Bosque School, which beat the Steers 42-40 on Saturday afternoon to briefly take over sole possession of second place, dropped a 54-51 decision to the Hawks on Thursday night, meaning the Steers’ win over Estancia launched them into second place in the district standings.

The Steers hit the hardwood again Saturday against East Mountain, having previously beaten up on it 56-39 in the teams’ first meeting of the year.

In truth, after a stomach-churning loss to Bosque, Mirabal said, he wasn’t absolutely positive how the Steers would respond. Would they come out recharged, a lesson learned, or still lamenting the setback?

“We came in Monday and talked about it, and that’s usually out of character for me,” he said. “I usually let bygones be bygones, but I thought there was a lot of things we could learn from that game.”

Whatever they took from revisiting it, it stuck.

The Steers limited the Bears to a dismal 6-of-31 from the field in the second half, opening up a 16-point lead.

Kendall Apachito’s layup at the 7:06 fourth-quarter mark put the Steers’ lead back to where it was at the half. On Magdalena’s next possession, Apachito took an entry pass and made a pretty wraparound dish to Rio Chadde, who kissed the ball off the glass. Chadde then hit a 16-foot jumper on the left elbow, and Magdalena was on its way.

Apachito and Chadde joined Montoya in double figures with 10 and 12 points, respectively.

“We played disciplined basketball,” Apachito said. “Like Jory said, every possession counts.”

Josh Jaquez paced the Bears with 12 points.

 


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