After picking up a pair of district victories last week—both on their home court—the Estancia Bears basketball team climbed a little closer to its goal of being among Class 2A’s top teams.
The Bears (18-4, 5-1) cruised to a 91-72 win on Feb. 9 over the Alamo Navajo Cougars, two days after staving off the Magdalena Steers (17-4, 4-1) in a 46-44 nail-biter.
Estancia came out a little slow against Alamo Navajo (12-10, 2-4) and trailed in the first quarter before a pair of Cruz Moreno 3-point baskets gave the Bears the lead.
“We never looked back after that,” Estancia head coach Daniel Pierce said. “After [the Cougars] went on a little run, we kinda put our foot down.”
A 9-0 run early in the third quarter helped the Bears blow the game open.
“It went from a 14-point lead to a 23-point lead in a minute forty-five,” Pierce said, adding, “I’m very pleased, any time you win a district game you’re pleased.”
Moreno finished with a team-high 22 points and five 3s. Garrett Noblitt led the Bears from behind the arc with six 3s and 20 points; Drayton Oberg also tallied 20 points.
In the Feb. 7 game against Magdalena, the two teams traded leads six times in the first quarter before the Steers sank a slew of 3-pointers to forge ahead.
Magdalena led by as much as 8 points in the second quarter and held a 29-25 advantage at halftime.
“We know Mag’s a great team and we were not our typical selves,” Pierce said.
The Bears regained the lead in the third quarter, buoyed by a trio of 3-point baskets: one from Oberg and a pair by Moreno.
The suspense swelled in the fourth quarter as the lead changed five times in the waning minutes.
The Steers drained a 3-pointer to push ahead 40-39 with just over 4 minutes remaining in the game.
Moments later, Moreno drove the lane for a layup to put Estancia back on top 41-40.
Magdalena inched ahead by 1 point before Andrew Lujan sank a 3 with 3:30 left to put the Bears up 44-42.
A pair of Magdalena free throws knotted the score at 44 with just under 3 minutes to go.
Oberg’s layup with just over a minute left gave the Bears the lead for good but they still needed to stop the Steers from scoring.
In the final 20 seconds, Magdalena fired a possible game-tying 2-pointer that caromed off the rear of the rim and sailed right back to one of its players.
The Steers then put up one last shot, but it sailed wide of the basket.
Oberg led the Bears with 16 points. Moreno chipped in 12.
“The boys fought a lot of adversity the past week and for them to respond this way against a tough team—I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Pierce said.
Pierce noted that Estancia, Magdalena, and Menaul are all sitting on top of the District 6-2A standings, and by winning district, the Bears could get a first-round bye at the state tournament.
After the Bears host Mission Achievement and Success on Feb. 15, they’ll have three remaining district showdowns that will determine their state-tournament seeding: a pair of road games at Menaul and Magdalena sandwiched around a home game against NACA. “I told the boys, ‘Everything you want to achieve is right there in front of you, you’ve just gotta go get it,’” Pierce said.