Northern Rio Grande Championship Boys Basketball

Panthers Defeat Hawks To Win NRG Championship
Valley Daily Post

Dulce High School finished second at the tournament. Photo by George Morse\

Pecos High School proved they deserved the top seed in the 69th annual Northern Rio Grande basketball tournament with a 66-48 victory over the Dulce High School Hawks in the championship game Jan. 7 at Pojoaque Valley High School.
The Panthers had lost in the NRG championship game last year to Mora High School and taking care of business this year was a goal for Pecos.
“Last year, we lost the championship in three tournaments,’ Pecos Coach Ira Harge said. “This team has matured a lot since last year. We all feel better.”
Despite the final margin of victory, the Hawks gave the Panthers all they could handle for three quarters. Dulce came out on fire to start the game. After Pecos had taken a 2-0 lead on an alley-opp pass to Carlos Cordova, Dulce ran off nine unanswered points. Baskets by Anfernee Callado and Sean Vicenti followed by a three-pointer from Scott Chavez made the score 7-2. Callado followed with a sweet assist to Vicenti under the basket to give the Hawks a 9-2 lead.
Pecos answered with a 10-0 run that put the Panthers back in front. Five different players scored during that spurt, highlighting the Panthers teamwork and depth that would play a key part in the Pecos’ victory.
Dulce wasn’t done. Chavez’s second three-pointer put the Hawks back in front 17-15. A three-pointer by Mario Archuleta put the Panthers back in front. The first quarter ended with Pecos holding a 20-19 lead.
The Hawks jumped out in front 24-20 to start the second quarter after an old-fashioned, three-point play by Vicenti and a pair of free throws by Tyrese Morgan. Pecos came back to lead 25-24, but another three-point bomb by Chavez put the Hawks back in front. Dulce led 29-27 when freshman post Xavier Padilla made his presence felt in the paint. He scored the Panthers’ next six points, battling inside for rebounds and putbacks. His first two baskets tied the score and his third put Pecos ahead 33-31.
“It sounds like a pun, but he (Padilla) was our “X” factor,” Coach Harge said. “We told him to attack the basket and go inside. He did what we told him to do.”
The Hawks came back to tie the game 33-33. Pecos pulled ahead on another alley-opp layup by Cordova, who then took another alley-opp pass that carried him past the basket. He alertly flipped the ball back to teammate Isaac C de Baca, who scored to give the Panthers a 37-33 lead at halftime.
“They did well running with us that first half,” Coach Harge said. “It looked towards the fourth quarter, they ran out of gas a little.”
The action slowed down in the third quarter. With over two minutes left to play, Harge had Archuleta run time off the clock by dribbling the ball just past half-court and daring the Hawks to come out and guard him. Dulce stayed back and over two minutes of time ran off the clock before Pecos attacked again. The Panthers led 46-39 heading into the fourth quarter.
Dulce cut Pecos’ lead to five points, 46-41, to start the fourth quarter. Pecos put together a five point run to increase their lead to double digits, 51-41, and steadily pulled away after that as Dulce simply couldn’t keep up with the Panthers. Pecos claimed the Northern Rio Grande championship they felt they had let slip away last year. The Panthers have recorded 13 straight victories this season since losing their season opener to Class4A West Las Vegas High School and are currently the top-ranked team in the state in Class 3A.Pecos defeated McCurdy Charter School 75-42 Jan. 5 in the opening round of the tournament and decisively defeated local rival Mora High School 66-45 Jan. 6 in the tournament semifinals.
Dulce advanced to the championship game by defeating Mesa Vista High School 72-39 in the opening round and quashed Questa High School 63-42 in the semifinals. The Hawks are 10-5 on the season and ranked fifth in Class 3A.
Located on the Jicarilla Apache Nation in the northern-most part of Rio Arriba County, the Hawks have to earn recognition from their             isolated location.
“We don’t get to play in summer leagues and our kids come from football and cross country to basketball,” Dulce Coach Shane Valdez said. The Hawks have emerged as the favorites to win the District 2-3A title. McCurdy, Monte del Sol Charter School and Santa Fe Prep School are the other members of the District. Like most coaches, Valdez prefers not to predict the future.
“I’ll leave that up to you guys,” he said. “I’m just preparing for our next game and that’s it.”