Rio Grande takes over 1st in 5-5A
Lopez, Gonzalez combine for 54 points in victory
When the dust settled Tuesday night, only the Rio Grande Ravens were left with both hands on the steering wheel in District 5-5A boys basketball.
This was the start of the most important few days of regular-season action the Ravens’ program has seen in many years. They took care of their end in the early part of the week, beating visiting Los Lunas 64-46 in a choppy matchup of two of 5-5A’s three co-leaders.
But by the time 6-foot-6 junior Santiago Gonzales put an exclamation point on this win with a crowd-pleasing, two-handed dunk in the final seconds, it was Rio Grande that was alone in first place.
“It was good to put this game away — for the South Valley and the school,” said Gonzalez, who scored 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter.
Combined with Capital’s 72-64 win over rival Santa Fe, the Ravens (15-9, 7-2) earned a one-game lead over the Tigers (19-6, 6-3) and the Demons (15-10, 6-3) headed into the final game of the regular season.
For Rio Grande, that comes Friday night, at Santa Fe.
“It’s not gonna be an easy task, but right now we’re just gonna enjoy this win,” said Rio Grande senior guard Jonah Lopez, who scored 20 of his 28 points in the first half. “And hope we execute just like we did this game.”
There remain three possible outcomes in 5-5A: Rio Grande wins the regular season outright; Santa Fe and Rio Grande finish tied for first; Los Lunas (which closes against Albuquerque High) ties for first along with the Demons and Ravens.
Rio Grande led almost the entire way Tuesday, thanks to the early shooting of Lopez. He buried three 3-pointers in the game’s first 5½ minutes; he later — and perhaps fittingly — banked in a half-court shot to close the first half for a 31-21 lead.
Los Lunas fell into a 37-23 hole midway through the third quarter, but battled back. Ezra Guest’s 3 for the Tigers cut the margin to 40-37 with 5:18 remaining in the game.
At the other end, Gonzalez got an open look from behind the arc, squared up and drained a straightaway 3 of his own for a 43-37 lead. That was the dagger.
“If they come to me, then we’re gonna feed the machine,” Lopez said of Gonzalez. “He steps up in big moments.”
On a poor shooting night for Los Lunas, Jalin Holland had 22 points, Guest 13 for the Tigers. RIO GRANDE 64, LOS LUNAS 46 Los Lunas 9 12 8 17 — 46 Rio Grande 17 14 7 26 — 64 Scoring: LL, Jalin Holland 22, Ezra Guest 13. RG, Jonah Lopez 28, Santi Gonzalez 26. Rec.: RG 15-9, 7-2 in 5-5A; LL 19-6, 6-3.