Seventh seed St. Michael's holds off late challenge by 10th seed Wingate to prevail in Saturday afternoon's first round of the 4A boy's state basketball tournament at Shelley-Perez gym
Horsemen gain a 26-point halftime lead and advance to Tuesday's quarterfinals against 2nd seed Portales
By ARNIE LESHIN
With their team up by 26 points at halftime, St. Michael's fans might have been thinking of the shot clock continuing to run if the margin increased to 35 points.
But the visitors from Wingate had other ideas for the clock, when with the huge lead reduced to seven with 2:36 left on the clock in regulation, they were hoping for a big-time finish in the first round of the boy's 4A state basketball tournament at Shelley-Perez gymnasium.
The opening tip-off was scheduled for 3 p.m. and the 7th seeded Horsemen were off and running to break away to a 19-7 lead at halftime.
This was despite starting forward Luke Archuleta out for the rest of the season. In Tuesday's practice, the 6-foot-2 senior and leading scorer, stepped onto another player's foot, and down went Archuleta. Diagnoses, broken foot.
So perhaps St. Michael's was playing this one for Archuleta, a four-year varsity player, for as soon as the 10th seeded Bears got closer than expected, the Horsemen picked up some key baskets en route to a 59-48 victory that ended Wingate's season at 15-13 and extended Ron Geyer's team record to 15-14.
This wild win that half the gym thought was wrapped up early, earned St. Michael's a berth in Wednesday's quarterfinals against 2nd seeded Portales (23-4) at Rio Rancho's Santa Ana Star Center, with the survivor moving into the semifinals on Friday at the WisePies Arena, alias the UNM Pit.
To explain "half the gym", was because the Bears' faithful who always travel to lend support, just about squeezed into the packed gym, and they were certainly loud. With their team falling behind quickly, they still erupted every time Wingate scored a point.
But it was the home team supporters who got to celebrate as the clock wound down. With the score 52-45, Horsemen senior guard Curtis Rogers swiped the ball, laid it in and capped it with a free throw. Not long after, senior guard Thomas Pacheco got a neat pass from Rogers and he, too, made it into a 3-point play to up the lead to 57-45 and cooled off the 14-4 Bears' run.
From there Wingate missed a pair of foul shots and along came St. Michael's junior wing Antonio Gabaldon, the quarterback, with a bucket for his ninth point and 59-45. There was a late-second 3 by the Bears, but this one was over with.
It began with the Horsemen opening up a 10-0 before Wingate answered with a 3, its first of seven. Then it zoomed to 17-3 and the welcomed lead after one quarter. It got to 24-7 on a basket by Gabaldon, 31-12 on a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Jevon Montoya, and before you knew it, it was 42-16 at the half.
But the Bears began the second half with four straight unanswered baskets and Geyer called a call out even though the lead was still 20. Back came his team behind the outside shooting from Pacheco and Montoya and full-court pressure defense to up the margin to 50-31 after three quarters.
But with 3:38 left, the lead dwindled down. From 52-36, it became 52-38, then 52-40, then 52-42 as Geyer called another time out when it became 52-45.
Then his backcourt took over, and in his 12th year at the reigns of the Horsemen, it was a satisfying win because of the roller coaster ride his team had been in all season, and the close games they were involved in, most of them losses.
Montoya paved the way with 16 points, Pacheco added 13, and Rogers, like Gabaldon, put in nine points. Those two started in the backfield this past football season.
As for Portales, it is 23-4, with a pair of setbacks to district foe Albuquerque Hope Christian, but then defeating the Huskies in the district tournament final. The other two losses were back-to-back to Texas schools that halted the Rams' 8-game streak that began the season.
At the St. Michael's round-robin, Portales turned back the Horsemen, 54-49, and went 3-0 versus a quartet that included Santa Fe Indian School and Silver. That was St. Michael's only tournament loss after beginning with a 54-48 triumph over Silver, which is now the 3rd seed at 23-4.