After dropping four games in a row—three of them against district rivals, including a season sweep by Menaul—Estancia’s boys basketball team rebounded with two consecutive district victories Feb. 18-19.
The Bears (15-10, 4-3 in District 6-2A) won 87-80 at Alamo Navajo on Feb. 19, the day after beating the Native American Community Academy Eagles 75-66 at home.
“The boys played a really good game, they executed the game plan and played with a ton of energy,” Estancia head coach Daniel Pierce said about the win over Alamo Navajo. “Alamo is a tough gym to play in—they always pack it and it gets rowdy in there—but the boys stayed focused and concentrated on the task at hand. Kody Larson had a monster game.”
Larson led the way for the Bears, posting a double-double with 24 points and 16 rebounds, according to Pierce. Garrett Noblitt scored 14 points, Xavier Jaramillo added 13, and Andrew Lujan had 12.
In the victory over NACA, Nazareth Astorga’s early layup started a 12-0 run for the Bears. Larson hit a layup moments later to put the Bears up 15-4 but the Eagles cut Estancia’s lead to 2 points by the end of the period.
The Bears used a big second quarter to maintain their lead and sealed the victory with a big fourth quarter. Noblitt led with 22 points, Jaramillo chipped in 14, and Larson had 13. “We didn’t play the best game but we did enough to win,” Pierce said.
The NACA victory snapped a four-game losing streak that culminated with a 63-59 barn-burner defeat in overtime to the Menaul Panthers at home on Feb. 15.
The Bears and Panthers (16-8, 5-2) went back and forth the whole contest with Menaul leading by a point after the first quarter and Estancia clinging to a 30-29 edge at halftime.
Menaul rode a 12-0 run in the third quarter to push ahead 49-43, but the Bears battled back in the fourth.
Trailing 51-44 with six minutes remaining in the game, Noblitt sank a layup to cap an 8-0 run and put the Bears up by a point with 2:14 left.
Then, after Menaul went up 54-52, Jaramillo drove the lane for layup with under a minute left to knot the score at 54-54 and send the game into overtime.
In OT, Menaul sank a quick basket and sealed the victory with seven free throws by Carlos Fuentes, who finished with 36 points.
Noblitt nailed a 3 with 1:50 to go but it was too little too late. He scored a season-high 23 points. Larson added 12.
“I’m very proud of our boys, they fought, they never gave up,” Pierce said after the loss. “It’s like I told ‘em, I said, ‘This is probably the most competitive game you’ve played all year.’ I thought they played a heck of a game.”
The Bears hosted the undefeated Magdalena Steers Feb. 20, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A by maxpreps.
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.