While Cleveland easily took care of West Mesa in the first round of its tournament on Thursday, the biggest news in City of Vision boys basketball was taking place 200 miles to the south.
Clay Patterson, the New Mexico player of the year for 2015-16 after leading the 11th-seeded Rio Rancho Rams to the Class 6A championship, sustained a hyper-extended right kneecap early in the fourth quarter against Las Cruces in the opening round of the City of Champions Classic in Artesia.
Though trainers were able to get the kneecap back in place, it is unclear what, if any, structural damage he may have sustained. Rio Rancho coach Wally Salata said Patterson would be getting an x-ray later Thursday that could tell much more about the injury.
Patterson’s grandfather Dan said his son (Clay’s father) Dave had sent him a text message saying he could be out at least a month.
RIO RANCHO 70, LAS CRUCES 5
“Time will tell,” Salata said. “That just means other guys will have to pick up their game. The list goes on for us.”
No matter the timetable for recovery/rehab, the injury comes at an especially bad time for Rio Rancho. The Rams just got several players on the team after finishing an undefeated state football championship run and Salata had hoped to use this tournament, along with its own the week after Christmas and the APS Metro tournament in early January, to get his former football players into basketball shape and develop the team chemistry with the basketball-only type players like Patterson.
Now the big question is: Who will be the Rams’ next go-to scoring punch? They’ve have find out soon. Today they play Carlsbad, including 6-9 inside force Brenden Boatwright, in a rematch of the state title game in March.
About two minutes into the fourth quarter, Patterson snagged an offensive rebound and set himself up to score on the put-back. He landed awkwardly and his right kneecap popped out.
Patterson was down for several minutes, clutching his right knee in agony as the Rams bench watched helplessly.
“It’s really tough to see Clay go down. He’s our creator, and we need him on the court with us,” senior guard Juan Hurt said. “It did terrify us. It was gruesome, and we all knew that we needed to stay together.”
Patterson was able get back up, but went straight to the athletic training room and didn’t return.
Salata said Patterson’s right kneecap was hyperextended and popped out upon impact, but the training staff managed to pop it back into place.
“It’s hard when your best player goes down,” Salata said. “I told them ‘We’ve got to be mentally tough. We’ve got to finish the game.’ ”
Patterson got the offense going early on, scoring and assisting on some key transition buckets, even facilitating some crafty plays for Hurt. After scoring on back-to-back 3-poinyrtd from the right corner off of deep passes by Patterson, Hurt repeatedly attacked the post, drew contact and went to the foul line.
“We feed off each other. We’ve been playing for many, many years now,” Hurt said.
Rio Rancho took control early in the game with some fast-break points when Las Cruces had some scoring droughts that lasted at least a couple minutes each time.
“Good teams need to play both sides of the ball,” Hurt said.
Hurt had a game-high 22 points (14 in the second half), three rebounds and one steal. Patterson had 13 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals before he went down.
Junior forward Keyshawn Banks, fresh off the football field, had 12 points,
five rebounds and one steal.
“Everyone looks at us as defending champs, but we still have to take on
every single game as different,” Hurt said.
Rio Rancho, (4-2)is looking to win the City if Champions Classic title for the second time in three years. To do so they’ll have to beat a Carlsbad team that will be seeking a measure of revenge.
The Cavemen (2-2) advanced to the semifinals with a hard-fought 53-50 victory over El Paso Parkland. On of Carlsbad’s losses was last Friday at Cleveland, 68-54.
— Matt Hollinshead
Click here to read Matt’s coverage of the tournament.
CLEVELAND 83, WEST MESA 5
At Cleveland High, the undefeated Storm (5-0) used big second and third quarters to blow out the Mustangs.
Cleveland led just 15-11 after one quarter in its opener in the Cleveland Storm Classic, but blitzed the Mustangs 49-25 over the next two quarters.
The Storm outscored West Mesa 24-9 in the second period to open up a 39-20 halftime lead, then outscored the Mustangs by 11 points (25-14) in the third period.
The Storm continue play in the four-team round robin tournament at 7 p.m. against El Paso Irvin. Cleveland will close out the tournament Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. against Los Lunas.
The Tigers beat Irvin 61-49 in Thursday’s opener.