Escalante wins consolation trophy, defeats Mesa Vista and McCurdy
By GEORGE MORSE
Valley Daily Post
Escalante’s Justin Garcia shoots a jumper against Mora
The Escalante High School boys basketball team won the consolation championship at the Northern Rio Grande basketball tournament, defeating Mesa Vista High School 62-39 Jan. 7 at Pojoaque Valley High School.
The Lobos bounced back after losing to future District 5-2A rival Mora High School 63-51 Jan. 5 in the opening round of the tournament. Escalante beat McCurdy Charter School 62-46 Jan. 6 in the first round of consolation.
In the consolation championship, the Lobos were in control throughout the game. Escalante led 15-3 after the first quarter and 26-13 at halftime. The Trojans cut the lead down by a point 36-24 by the end of the third quarter. The Lobos ran away with the game in the fourth quarter, outscoring Mesa Vista 26-15 for a 23-point victory.
Justin Garcia led Escalante with 19 points. The Lobos had 10 different players put points in the scorebook, including eight in the fourth quarter alone.
“In the first quarter, we got on them early,” Escalante Coach Bill Russom said. “I really didn’t like the effort for the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, I told them to pick it up and play a little basketball.”
Against McCurdy, the Lobos built a 35-18 lead by halftime and led 47-25 after three quarters. The Bobcats finally caught fire in the fourth quarter and scored 27 points, but it was too little, too late. Aaron Rendon led Escalante with 17 points.
In the loss to Mora, which is another future District 5-2A rival for Escalante, the Lobos were playing tough for almost three quarters. Escalante trailed by just three points at halftime and was down 39-36 in the third quarter when Mora made an 8-0 run fueled by turnovers and offensive rebounds to take a 47-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Three-pointers by Cody Russom and Garcia cut the Rangers lead to 49-42 in the fourth quarter. Mora came back behind the inside play of Alonzo Aragon, who had eight points in the fourth quarter. Once the Rangers pushed the lead back to double digits 53-42 after an Aragon Basket, the lead never fell below 10 points for the remainder of the game.
“Against a team like Mora, you can’t do anything less than your very best,” Coach Russom said. “They’ll jump on it right away. We got ourselves into some trouble.”
Cody Russom and Garcia each scored 12 points to lead the Lobos.
Escalante is 8-5 on the season and ranked 11th in Class 2A.
McCurdy salvaged a victory in the seventh-place game at the Northern Rio Grande, defeating Penasco High School 65-43 Jan. 7 for their lone victory in the tournament. The Bobcats had finally found their offense with sophomore post Ubaldo Barela back on the floor. Barela led the Bobcats with 25 points. He had not played in McCurdy’s first two games of the tournament. The Bobcats led 30-21 at halftime and 42-31 going into the fourth quarter. McCurdy pulled away in the fourth quarter, scoring 23 points and holding the Panthers to 12 points.
McCurdy is now 5-10 on the season and ranked 16th in Class 3A. The Bobcats had lost to eventual tournament champion Pecos 75-42 in the opening round of the tournament.
Mesa Vista picked up its lone victory at the Northern Rio Grande with a 56-54 win over Penasco Jan. 6 in the first round of consolation. The Trojans trailed 16-13 after the first quarter. Mesa Vista came back to lead 31-27 at halftime and 43-38 heading into the fourth quarter. Both teams struggled from the free throw line. Mesa Vista sank just 19-of-40 attempts, with leading scorer Xavier Varela sinking just 3-of-17 to go with his 16 points. Penasco struggled even more, sinking just 19-of-43 shots. The rough but ragged game saw a total of four technical fouls called.
Varela led the Trojans in scoring in each of their games at the tournament. He scored 23 points in the opening round loss to Dulce and 19 in the loss to Escalante. He is the only returning player with varsity experience for Mesa Vista and first-year coach Terence Mirabal.
“We came out with one win,” Coach Mirabal said. “I was hoping for two but that’s how it goes. We’ve got to throw em’ in the fire-on the job training. That’s how we have to go. We’re trying to build for the future.”
Mesa Vista is 5-8 on the season and ranked 20th in Class 2A.