Warriors even season

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It is not difficult to see how much the Socorro boys basketball team has improved so far this season.

On Dec. 1 the Warriors traveled to Belen and lost 82-42 at the hands of the Eagles. On Saturday, Socorro handed Belen a 60-48 loss in what was likely the Warriors’ best game of the season.

Photos by Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro’s Matt Jojola shoots over the top of Belen’s Colton Lewis during their game Saturday afternoon. Jojola scored 15 in a 60-48 Warriors victory.

“That just shows you, if we put a full 32-minute game together we can play with pretty much anybody,” Socorro head coach Lawrence Baca said.

The home team Warriors played intelligent, aggressive and consistent in beating their Interstate 25 rivals, and Socorro again proved it can play ball when it sticks to its style of play.

“I thought tonight was one of the best games we’ve played all year,” Baca said. “It was a complete game. If we can do that we’ve got ourselves a chance to win more games.”

The Eagles were ahead 18-17 at the end of the first period, but Socorro took its first and last lead just 40 seconds into the second period when Ethan Smith powered in a layup in the post to give his squad a 19-18 advantage.

It was a back and forth affair the rest of the first half, and the Warriors held a 30-25 advantage heading into the locker room.

In he third quarter, Warrior Michael Padilla knocked down a 3-pointer to give his team a 35-30 lead at the 4 minute and 20 seconds mark, but Belen’s Colton Lewis answered right back with his own trey to pull the Eagles to within two points a minute later.

Padilla responded with an old fashioned 3-point play of his own, and when Smith hit a turnaround bank shot from 10 feet at the third-quarter buzzer Socorro had a 44-37 lead.

With 4:40 remaining in the game Smith struck again with another nifty turnaround shot to give the Warriors their biggest lead of the contest at 48-39.

Adam Paz shot two free throws a minute later to extend the Socorro lead to 53-41, and the Warriors built as much as a 14-point lead en route to a huge momentum-building victory.

Padilla led Socorro with 20 points and Matt Jojola added 15, with 13 of those coming in the first half. Smith had 12 and Paz scored 10 for the Warriors. Zach Martin had 29 for Belen and Lewis added 13.

Michael Padilla drives past Belen’s Antonio Chavez on Saturday during Socorro’s 60-48 win. Padilla scored 20 points for the Warriors.

The Warriors’ win was due in large part to the play of their senior leader Padilla.

“I think Michael has learned not to put too much pressure on himself. When he tries to do too much he gets himself out of his game,” Baca said. “Tonight he pretty much let the game come to him. Michael’s a great ballplayer.”

The win may not have been in league play for Socorro, but its rough non-league schedule seems to finally be paying off for Baca and his squad. And that couldn’t be more important with a senior night contest with Hot Springs on the docket, followed by a road game at Silver.

“Playing those tough games throughout the season has prepared us for this time of year,” Baca said. “Silver is obviously a tough team. We’ve just got to play our A-game. If we can go out there and play like we did tonight, we have a chance to win at Silver.”

But again, senior night came first last night and even though Socorro was favored to win, overlooking the Tigers could have been a mistake.

“We’ve just got to know what is most important. It’s a big district game,” Baca said. “We can’t take Hot Springs lightly.”

For full coverage of last night’s home finale against the Tigers, read the Feb. 23 edition of El Defensor Chieftain.