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Expected girls game between Española-Pojoaque is a go

March 4, 2019 GMT

Conspiracy theorists, unite!

Before pairings for the respective girls’ basketball State Tournament brackets were announced Sunday night on YouTube, the prevailing thought among the coaches in Northern-based District 2-4A was that at least one of this week’s first-round matchups would involve two of their own cannibalizing themselves before the 16-team field shifted to the Albuquerque metro area on March 12.

The idea was that the powers that be wanted an attractive matchup to increase ticket sales, and an Española Valley-Pojoaque Valley pairing is as good as it gets. The schools are only about 20 minutes apart and have a long history with passionate fan bases packing the stands when March Madness rolls around.

The theorists were right. No. 13 Española (15-11) and No. 4 Pojoaque (23-4) will meet Friday night in Ben Luján Gymnasium. The winner advances into a quarterfinal pairing that could include another 2-4A club, Los Alamos (13-15), in another intriguing matchup that would reunite Lady Hilltoppers head coach Lanse Carter with either his former team (Pojoaque) or a game against his former assistant (Joe Estrada of Española).

All first-round games on the girls’ side will take place Friday at the site of the higher seed. That includes a pair of games in Las Vegas for Class 3A where both Robertson and West Las Vegas will be at home.

Robertson (25-2) is the top overall seed in their bracket and will face No. 16 Cobre while West Las Vegas (17-11) is the No. 8 and is staring down a likely rematch with its crosstown rivals in the state quarters.

Also at home are Santa Fe Indian School in 3A and Pecos and Peñasco in 2A. SFIS is the No. 2 seed after going on the road to beat Robertson in the District 2-3A Tournament championship game.

The Lady Braves (24-4) are led by first-year head coach Patricia Chavez and will be home against No. 15 Laguna-Acoma.

The 3A bracket includes St. Michael’s, the 12-seed. The Lady Horsemen (11-15) have lost seven of their last nine and five straight overall. They will head to the Four Corners area to take on No. 5 Navajo Prep. The Lady Eagles (19-9) are enjoying their best season in five years.

Peñasco (24-3) is the No. 2 seed in 2A. The Lady Panthers, who made it to the state title game a year ago, will open at home against a McCurdy team they beat twice in January by an average of 28 points. Lying in wait are possible dates against a pair of juggernauts in No. 3 Pecos (19-6) and Texico (22-3).

Pecos is the highest-seeded non-district champion — but for a good reason. The Lady Panthers finished second in District 7-2A to Texico, the 3A state champion in three of the last four years.

Santa Fe High appears to have been one of the first teams left out of the 5A bracket. The Demonettes won 11 games in the regular season and finished fourth in District 2-5A, but that district was regarded as the weakest in the big-school class. Sandia was the only team invited to the postseason, and the Matadors (19-6) were relegated to the 11 seed with a road game in Las Cruces against a Mayfield team that rides into the postseason on a 14-game winning streak.

Capital (10-17) was also left out. The Lady Jaguars lost five of their last six to close things out.

Hobbs is No. 1 in 5A, followed by Piedra Vista, West Mesa and Carlsbad. West Mesa has a slight Northern New Mexico connection. Its point guard is Maria (Cece) Barela, an offseason transfer from Las Vegas Robertson.