Some nail-biter games went down to the wire while others were lopsided blowouts in last weekend’s 79th annual Bean Valley Conference basketball tournament at Estancia High School.
Sixteen teams—including five from area high schools—competed in the annual BVC tournament that started in Mountainair in 1938.
The annual event is the oldest invitational high school basketball tournament in the state.
The host school’s boys and girls squads rolled through the first two rounds to advance to Saturday’s championship contest where both were upended and settled for second place.
East Mountain’s girls team and Mountainair’s boys team both claimed the consolation bracket finale to finish in fifth place.
Mountainair’s girls picked up their first win of the season during the tournament and finished sixth.
Despite wintry weather that caused all of Friday’s games to be rescheduled, Estancia athletic director Stewart Burnett said this year’s tournament was “much improved” over last year.
The Bears had won the last three BVC tournaments and looked like they were on their way to a fourth crown after beating Bosque 73-52 in Thursday’s opener and Monte del Sol 59-39 on Saturday morning.
But Estancia fell 53-51 to the Menaul Panthers in Saturday’s championship.
Reyez Herrera scored a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers, but the Bears found themselves playing catch-up most of the game while trying to contain Menaul’s 6-foot-9 junior Michael Ou, who earned the tournament MVP award.
“He’s one of those kids who uses his body well,” Estancia head coach Daniel Pierce said. “We’re not that big and we did what we could with a 6-9 kid.”
Menaul used a 10-0 run to take an early lead but Herrera’s first 3-pointer gave the Bears a 17-16 lead midway through the second quarter.
After falling behind again Estancia forged a 9-0 run to go up by 2 points at halftime.
Trailing 48-45 with under 2 minutes left in the game, Estancia’s Zeke Tapia sank a layup and then nailed a trey from the top of the arc to knot the score at 48-48 with 1:11 remaining.
But Ou responded with a slam dunk, followed by a trio of free throws to seal the victory.
“It was a battle,” Pierce said. “We had a chance to win the game and it didn’t bounce our way but that’s OK, we’ll roll with it and go from here.”
Herrera, Tapia, and Cruz Moreno earned All-Tournament honors.
The Lady Bears trounced Desert Academy 65-4 in the opening-round, followed by a 58-35 victory over Cottonwood Classical Prep on Saturday morning.
But Estancia ran out of gas against the fast and physical Tucumcari Lady Rattlers in the finale, losing 67-33.
The hot-shooting Lady Rattlers started with a 13-0 run while hitting four 3-pointers in the first-quarter. They built a 33-11 lead at halftime.
Along the way, Tucumcari’s physical attack took its toll, including an incident when a player pounced on Estancia’s Callie “Coco” Larson sending the Lady Bear face-first to the floor.
“I went down hard,” Larson said.
When no foul was called by the officials, Estancia’s head coach Travis Watts voiced his objections which led to his ejection from the game.
Assistant coach J.C. Batts took over for Watts.
“You just have to handle the situation the best you can,” Batts said. “I thought the girls hung in there and finished well.”
“They hustle,” Marisa Luna said of the Lady Rattlers. “But I’d rather have a game like this where there’s good competition.” Luna scored a team-high 12 points for Estancia and received All-Tournament honors along with teammate Mariah Aday.
East Mountain girls
In Thursday’s opener, East Mountain fell victim to Tucumcari, 60-27, putting the Lady Timberwolves in the consolation bracket.
After Bosque forfeited to East Mountain in the second round, the Lady T’Wolves advanced to the consolation championship where they routed Mountainair’s Lady Mustangs, 58-12.
“Tucumcari is a very fast team and we struggled to score,” East Mountain head coach Hobert “H” Warren said of the first game, adding that against Mountainair, “The girls came out strong and played hard the whole game.”
The Lady T’Wolves never trailed as Ryann Warren’s 3-point shot just before halftime capped a 23-2 run that staked East Mountain to a 30-6 lead at the break. Warren scored a game-high 18 points and got All-Tournament honors along with teammate Aubri Wrye.
“This was a good game to get back on track,” Wrye said, adding that the All-Tournament award was her first-ever.
Mountainair lost Thursday’s opener to Monte del Sol, 66-60, but benefitted from Bosque’s forfeit in the second round to advance to the consolation championship where the Mustangs got past Cottonwood Classical in overtime, 69-60.
Trailing by 2 points, the Mustangs tied the game at 59-59 with :08 left in regulation.
Amador Brazil’s layup at the start of OT ignited a 6-0 run to help lift the Mustangs to victory. Brazil led with 20 points and earned All-Tournament honors along with teammate Irijah Chavez.
“I’m happy with the win,” said Mustangs head coach Azan Chavez. “They wanted it, they put it all out there and that’s what we’re trying to aim for.”
After dropping the opener 54-34 to Cottonwood Classical, the Lady Mustangs—who hadn’t won a game all season—finally secured a victory by beating Desert Academy 51-17. Hannah Torres scored a game-high 13 points.
“We’ve struggled just to have enough girls to have a team and some of them have never played so it was good to play a team closer to our level,” said Mountainair’s first-year coach Chad Patterson.
In the consolation loss to East Mountain Amber Lajeunesse led the Lady Mustangs with 6 points. She along with teammate Rozland Luna earned All-Tournament honors.
Patterson said his team was outmatched against East Mountain but noted that the players had fun.
“They went out and tried their best,” Patterson said. “They get better every time we play.”
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.