By ERIC MADDY
What a difference a few miles make.
The two boys basketball coaches in Rio Rancho were given a forced day off Thursday – at least partially, which is another store in itself. Just down the hill at Cibola High, part of the Albuquerque school district, the Cougars were preparing for a road trip and a non-district game.
Because of snow, icy roads and predictions that conditions would not improve because of sub-freezing temperatures, the Rio Rancho school district canceled all classes and activities. The district later relented slightly, telling coaches after one o’clock they had permission to practice after all.
Coach Wally Salata managed to get five of his Rio Rancho High players into the gym in advance of tonight’s game at Volcano Vista; Cleveland High coach Brian Smith could not be reached to find out if any players got some work in before tonight’s road trip to Santa Fe.
Cibola, meanwhile, had a regular day of school.
Because of new district alignments, the Rams and Storm find themselves in a five-team division against the two Albuquerque schools and Santa Fe High. In the past there were four teams in the district, with Santa Fe placed in anther district.
That means now, on any given night, there will be two District 1-6A games and one team is the odd man out. That team can either play a non-district opponent or simply take the night off. With Friday’s district matchups in place, Cibola played at Albuquerque Academy, a Class 5A team that came into the game with a 5-10 record.
Fresh off a win in their district opener over Volcano Vista on Tuesday, it was hard to tell if the Cougars played down to the level of their opponent or if Academy had just enough talent to prevent a rout. Either way, the end result was a 52-37 Cibola victory.
Salata looked in on the game, not doing a serious scouting visit but checking to see if the Cougars were doing anything radically different. The Rams fell to Cibola 76-64 in the Albuquerque Public Schools Metro Tournament on Jan. 9. It was the last loss for the Rams, 15-4 overall and 1-0 in district, who are on a four-game winning streak.
The two teams meet again on Tuesday night at Cibola.
It was the end of an odd day a for Salata, who spent part of it at Wal-Mart unsuccessfully looking for bargains as a way of “just wasting time,” then trying to catch up on work at school before getting the call allowing a practice. Cibola coach Ray Rodriguez, meanwhile, not only had a full day at his school, but had to get his team ready for a lesser opponent only two days after Cibola won its district opener over Volcano Vista.
The conditions were ripe for a letdown: non-district road game against a struggling team you are expected to beat. Rodriguez admitted that his team has played better this year, but also said the Chargers had something to do with the competitive game, too.
“You’ve got to give Academy some credit,” he said. “With No. 12 (senior guard Carlos CdBaca), you’ve got to guard him, and they did some good things to spread us out.
“And then defensively they did some good thing to pack it in, so we had to change personnel and get some shooters out there. They made us make some adjustments, which was good for us.”
The Rio Rancho schools and Santa Fe did not schedule any non-district games on off nights once their district season started. Volcano Vista will play host to West Mesa on Feb. 14 in its only non-district game after the district season started, and Cibola has no more non-district opponents on their schedule.
For Rodriguez, some competition is better than none for his team, but …
“We’d rather be playing strictly district right now,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what we’d prefer, but it is what it is, and it worked out. We got some kids into the game tonight that don’t always play much, so that will help us. But yes, we would prefer once we start district to play district.”
Even a casual observer would note that the Cougars will go as far as Christian Cunningham will take them. The rail-thin 6-foot-6, 190-pound senior post player led Cibola with 13 points, 19 rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists and two thunderous dunks.
But it was his defense that stood out.
“He’s leading the state in rebounding and probably blocked shots as well. I thought he played really smart tonight in not leaving his feet as much as he normally does, just standing in the lane and making a wall like we talk about,” Rodriguez said. “He did a good job with that.”
Offensively, Cunningham’s game is still a work in progress. If he ever becomes a physical presence that demands the ball down low, the rest of the district will have a real problem on their hands.
“I thought every time we threw it down low, Academy did a good job of doubling us,” Rodriguez said. “And I think he knew it was coming. We were just a step slow in our execution.
“We talk about being demonstrative with your posture in the post. You’ve got to demand the ball with your body rather than your mouth. We didn’t do a very good job of that.”
Before Rio Rancho faces Cibola, it must first take on Volcano Vista in the first of four consecutive district road games. Even though the Hawks played a slow-down game in a recent road trip to Hobbs and Carlsbad that might frustrate the fact-paced Rams, Salata said the missed full practice isn’t a major concern.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt us too much,” Salta said. “We’ll be able to do some shooting tomorrow morning during first period (athletic class), so I’m not too concerned about missing a day. It gives our kids an extra day of rest, so we’ll just enjoy the day off and go get them tomorrow.”
As mentioned earlier, Salata’s presence at the Cibola-Academy game wasn’t a intense scouting trip because his team had played the Cougar before.
“I just go because I love to watch basketball,” he said. “The only thing that happens is if someone gets hurt.
“The biggest thing is focusing on doing what we do and trying to get better at those things. Oh, they might throw a defense out there that they didn’t use against us earlier. But If I see a defense they throw out there, like a press or trap, we’ve pretty much already worked on those things in practice so it doesn’t really affect us too much.”
District 1-6A Standings
Rio Rancho 1-0 15-4
Cibola 1-0 11-6
Cleveland 0-0 17-1
Volcano Vista 0-1 11-6
Santa Fe 0-1 11-8
Posted Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015
School spokesperson discusses
RRPS weather closing process
There’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t. And then there is the Rio Rancho Public Schools.
The district canceled all classes and activities Thursday (see below) as a result of overnight snow, icy roads and freezing temperatures that were expected to last through much of the day.
Last week the district remained open on two days where weather came into play, drawing private criticism from some. For those who may question just how the school district makes the call on whether to stay open or closed, there is a process on how a decision is made.
In the case of Thursday’s closure, “We had staff out driving the roads at 3 or 3:30 in the morning, and they make that determination,” spokesperson Kim Vesely said mid-Thursday morning.
Those staff members then report to Superintendent Sue Cleveland, who makes the final call. “And today it was a pretty clear-cut call,” Vesely said. “It was the same process both times. The difference this time is that the temperatures are colder and forecast to stay colder. When I looked at it this morning it didn’t look it was going to get above freezing before one or so in the afternoon.”
The district, of course, always wants to err on the side of caution and safety.
“We always do,” Vesely said. “Sometimes, like last week, things change on us. You just have to do the best you can. When we made the call last week, the roads were clear and the temperatures were above freezing.”
Vesely said the district has a 5:30 a.m. deadline to make a decision in order to publicize its decision through the media, its web site and text messages to parents and students.
Vesely said school bus drivers receive some training for driving in inclement weather, though she was not sure of the specifics of that training. But the road conditions, she said, go beyond bus safety.
“It’s also the parents and high school kids, the 16 and 17-year-olds who just got their license and are not experienced drivers,” she said. “You don’t want them on the road, either.
“It’s not just a question of running our busses. It’s wanting to make sure that all of the people who are traveling to school on their own are safe.”
School officials will continue to monitor the weather but sorry, kids, it looks like you will have to go back to school tomorrow.
“We are not anticipating a closing tomorrow,” Vesely said. “This weather system is supposed to move out.”
Albuquerque schools and students who live in the East Mountains were on a two-hour delay Thursday, according to the district's web site.
The Rio Rancho Public Schools posted the following on their web site this morning:
"Due to snow, icy roads, and temperatures expected to remain below freezing most of the day, Rio Rancho Public Schools and the district office will be closed on Thursday, January 22. After school and evening activities are also cancelled. Thank you for your understanding."
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015
Rio Rancho guard Brady Patterson (21) eyes the basket before Santa Fe defenders Warren Fulgenzi (23) and Hayden Hargrove (33) can close in. Patterson had a game-high 17 points in Rio Rancho's 76-41 victory.
Rams race past Santa Fe
By ERIC MADDY
The University of Arkansas once featured a team that promoted itself as “40 minutes of hell.” The Rio Rancho Rams got about 20 minutes of that up-tempo style against Santa Fe on Tuesday, and sent the visiting Demons home feeling a little burned.
The Rams trailed after the first quarter but turned up the heat to post a 76-41 victory in the inaugural District 1-6A game for both teams. Coupled with Cibola’s 47-39 victory over Volcano Vista, the Rams find themselves tied for first place with the Cougars.
Cleveland High, the fifth team in the district, routed Manzano 75-47 in a non-district game. The third-ranked Storm, 17-1 overall, will play their first district game at Santa Fe on Friday.
While city basketball fans are anticipating a showdown between the Storm and No. 6 Rio Rancho, the Rams have other things on their mind. Friday’s game at Volcano Vista is the first of a four-game road swing through the rest of the district, including two games before visiting Cleveland.
“Our goal is to go at least 6-2 in our district – win all of our games at home and split on the road,” said Rams head coach Wally Salata after Tuesday’s decisive victory. “Everybody says, ‘What about Cleveland?’ We can’t worry about Cleveland. It’s Volcano now.”
A 6-2 district record would seemingly put the Rams, now 15-4 overall, in good shape for a high seed in the state tournament after three years of borderline .500 play. But for a while on Tuesday, the Demons seemed to have other plans.
Santa Fe High scored the first six points of the game and had a 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter by patiently working their offense and getting a few shots inside. But in a sign of things to come, Rio Rancho got consecutive baskets on offensive rebounds, including a buzzer-beater by Isaiah Ortiz y Pino, who finished with 13 points.
Those scramble-for-the-loose-ball kind of putbacks seemed to change the tempo, and the Rams were off to the races. Rio Rancho outscored Santa Fe 26-9 in the second quarter and 17-6 in the third, even as the Rams were rotating in other players throughout. Ten of the 11 Rio Rancho players scored in the game, and star guard Brady Patterson had 17 points in a little more than two quarters of action.
Julio Rivera and Hayden Hargrove had eight points each to lead the Demons, 11-8 overall.
The margin reached 20 points midway through the third quarter at 48-28 on a Patterson basked, his last points of the game, and continued to spiral as Santa Fe couldn’t score. It topped 30 for the first time at 61-30 midway through the fourth quarter on a bucked by Brady’s younger brother Clay, and topped out at 36 before Santa Fe closed the margin slightly.
“We were ready for the challenge in that first quarter, but we didn’t maintain it,” Santa Fe coach David Rodriguez said. “We were playing, doing exactly what we wanted, in the first quarter. In the second quarter, we missed some free throws, missed some layups, and it kind of started to get away from us.
“And that’s exactly like feeding sharks. That’s when they start feeling momentum. They get a layup or two, then all of a sudden they start hitting threes. They all shoot them and they all hit them.
“We fed them. We fed their press. And after that we just got weaker and weaker with the ball.
’We came out to play. We were ready. We handled it really well. Defensively we did a good job in that first quarter, but it’s a four-quarter game. It takes a lot of mental toughness to maintain your game plan against a team that puts constant pressure on you. They put pressure on you defensively and keep coming at you, and on offense they have so many weapons. So when you have possession, or you have a chance to get possession, you’ve got to be really tough, you’ve got to be hungry. And when you finally get the ball, you’ve got to be strong.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough and disciplined. We weren’t that in the second and third quarters.”
That constant pressure, Salata said, is the key to his team’s success.
“That’s been a couple games this year, where we started slow.
We tell the kids that’s why you play four quarters,” he said. “It’s not the beginning of the game that everybody remembers, it is the end of the game.
“If you’re not used to playing against this style – and you saw it, Santa Fe isn’t used to playing against this style -- it wears you down. You start taking quick shots, and we were able to convert in our transition game.
“They did some good things at the start of the game, getting the ball inside to their post. But I knew once we made some shots we’d be o.k.,” Salata said. “Even when we missed shots we kept the pressure 90 feet. A lot of high school players aren’t use to keeping the pressure all 90 feet. They’re used to playing half-court offense all the time. You’ve got to be able to think, ‘What am I going to do in the full court, and when we get to half court what are we going to do?’
“For high school kids, that’s tough. Our kids have been playing that way since Day One, so that’s why it looks a little bit easier for us. We do that in practice against each other.”
Because of the lopsided score late in the game, Salata was able to expand his normal nine-man rotation to include two junior varsity players who had one quarter of eligibility after their game. Since the core nine averages between 14 to 23 minutes a game, they can keep the pressure on throughout.
“I’ll take my nine guys against any other team. And Brady didn’t even have to play the whole fourth quarter. And when Brady doesn’t have to play the whole fourth quarter, that’s good.”
Said Rodriguez: “It’s an eye opener, for sure. The scouting report didn’t lie. I laid it all out to them and I kind of felt like it was ‘You’ve got to be kidding, coach. They can’t have that many guys who can shoot the three on one team.’ But yeah, they can. They keep coming at you and coming at you.”
SANTA FE (41)
Oscar Perez 0, Corwin Mueller 7, Keanyn Evans 6, Santiago Gonzales 0, Francisco Rodriguez 2, Larry Garcia 0, Julio Rivera 8, David Marquez 0, Warren Fulgenzi 4, Erik Enriquez 0, Vito Coppola 6, Hayden Hargrove 8, Bailey Lozada Cabbage 0, Draven Lopez 0.
RIO RANCHO (76)
Anthony Armijo 2, Bryan Parnell 4, Juan Hurt 5, Clay Patterson 6, Brady Patterson 17, Zack Garretson 7, Carlos Sanchez 9, Jeremy Snider 6, Dakota Carrasco 0, Isaiah Ortiz y Pino 13, Chris Sisneros 7.
Santa Fe 15 9 6 11 -- 41
Rio Rancho 11 26 17 22 -- 76
JV – Santa Fe 58, Rio Rancho 57.