Steers girls win league tournament

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Late on Jan. 4 the Steers girls basketball team had just lost to Tularosa, a team it had beaten in the season opener on Nov. 29, and were in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

Submitted photo: Magdalena girl’s basketball has earned the three seed position in tournament play.

At 5-4, Magdalena wasn’t really on “anyone’s radar,” as head coach Wally Sanchez puts it.

Soon after, the young Steers, whose roster only boasts two seniors, went on a six-game winning streak before it ran into Jemez Valley on Jan. 26.

Magdalena lost that game in heartbreaking fashion, and the memory of that loss seems to have stuck with it in the best possible way.

The Steers have gone on a nine game tear since then, beating their opponents by an average of nearly 28 points per game.

Also during that stretch, they beat Jemez Valley three times, including Feb. 23 in a District 2-1A regular season playoff and again last Friday during the league tournament championship.

All of that was enough to earn Magdalena a three seed in the state championships.

“That’s what I wanted. I feel our strength of schedule is what put us up there,” Sanchez said.

“We had kind of been off the radar all season until the last two weeks. We started playing real well. Some of the people we played early in the season paid off. I think we deserved at least a three.”

The Steers will play host to Animas this Friday at 5 p.m.

For Sanchez and his team, it really has been a remarkable year of discovery. Playoffs and league titles are the norm and the expectation in Magdalena, and this season’s team was a young one.

But as Sanchez points out, young doesn’t necessarily equate to inexperience and this year’s Steers have gradually developed into the expected state contender.

“The whole group was a little bit green when we started, yet we started well,” he said. His two seniors were coming off injuries from last year and, along with two sophomores and two freshmen, any intelligent fan from the outside looking in may not have pegged this squad as a legitimate threat.

That obviously has not been the case this season.

“They have composure that is beyond their years,” Sanchez said of his girls.

At first glimpse it seems like Animas, who finished just 11-14 overall and 0-3 in District 5-1A, might be a pushover, but Sanchez and his group know better.

“These kids are young but that doesn’t mean they haven’t played basketball for many years. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been in situations where they know they can’t take anybody for granted,” Sanchez said.

“We’re very focused on Animas.They have several good basketball players. More important, we need to polish up on some of the things we do, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

Regardless of their current seed or who they’ll play this weekend, the Steers are also aware that there’s still plenty of time to practice and to get better. Believe that’s exactly what Magdalena is doing right now.

“They’ve come a long way and even at this point there’s still room for improvement,” Sanchez said.

“We can still get better in the next three or four days of practice. With the attitude they’ve had all season, which is positive, we’ll continue to learn this week.”

Tipoff against the Panthers is slated for 5 p.m. Friday at Magdalena High School.