Braves best Colts in first round of State

Colt post-man Clay Stroh reaches out to clear a long rebound during the first half of play against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo courtesy of Laura Brown.
Colt post-man Clay Stroh reaches out to clear a long rebound during the first half of play against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo courtesy of Laura Brown.

NMMI Sports Press

Second half blues plagued the Colts as fourth-seeded Santa Fe Indian School topped No. 13 NMMI, 57-40, in the first round of the NMAA Class 3A Boys’ Basketball State Championships.

The Institute survived nine turnovers in the first half at the Pueblo Pavilion in Santa Fe, as the host Braves had troubles hitting open shots in their own gym. That combined with 12 points from sophomore shooting guard Daniel Xibille, and five points off penetration moves by senior point guard Hector Reyna, allowed NMMI to build up to a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter.

But SFIS finally got their offense back on track, hitting the last two buckets before halftime, to cut NMMI’s lead to three, 27-24.

The Braves continued the run as the third period started, posting the first five points and taking their first lead, 29-27, since the opening tip-off.

NMMI struggled against the press, committing several turnovers which more-often-than-not ended in easy baskets for the Braves, and found themselves down by 12 at the end of the period.

In the fourth, Santa Fe Indian used a combo of ball-control offense – to take time off the clock – along with flurry of points by Brave Virgil Valencia, including four treys.

“The first half, we played great,” said head Colt coach Connor Williamson, “and in the second the wheels just kinda fell off.”

“At halftime I just told the guys ‘We won the first half by three – we gotta go out and do it again.’ We drew up how to break their trap, but it still gave us trouble,” explained coach Williamson.

“No. 14 hit some threes,” continued coach about Valencia’s offensive outpouring in the fourth, “but it wasn’t just those threes that won it. Those were daggers, but it was defensive breakdowns that really hurt us in the second half.”

Despite the loss, the future looks bright for the Colt basketball program under first-year head coach Williamson, who brought NMMI back to the State Playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season.

“We got some good minutes out of the freshman Jaikayo [Brown] – that’s promising for the future. Plus both [Ricardo] Mata and Dainiel [Xibille] are sophomores and we have them coming back as well, and then junior [Clay] Stroh,” said Williamson. “So we’ve got four guys returning who played significant minutes – that’s great to build on for next season.”