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Coach, seniors look to end careers with Blue Trophy

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Dexter’s Sergio Ramirez drives toward the basket against Lordsburg Jan. 17. (Jeannie Harris File Photo)

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This is the last dance for second-year Dexter basketball coach Arthur Cobos and his 12 seniors. The Demons are trying to send their coach out with the Blue Trophy, and the Demons are trying to be one of the only schools to win back-to-back state titles in football and basketball in the same school year with this group of seniors.

Dexter’s Jarren Amaro goes up for a shot against Jal on Jan. 18. (Jeannie Harris File Photo)

“I took this job because of the seniors and my son,” Cobos said. “There were some kids that weren’t playing before and they love basketball, and once I got the job, they came out. It’s wrong to see kids who out-dribble my son — not playing because of a coach. It’s a good thing we have had fun last year and this year.”

Cobos would have rather rescheduled the games his team had to play than to play with junior varsity players because it affected seeding in the tournament. By playing with junior varsity players, it forced his team to have to win the regular season title and the district tournament once his football players returned from winning their second state title in 21 years.

Thanks to their long playoff run during the football season and not being able to reschedule tournament games, Dexter started the season 1-7. When the football players came back, it took them half the season to get into basketball shape and play the up-and-down street ball running game Cobos likes to play. As the seniors got into shape, they began making a statement by winning the regular season 3A title and district tournament this year.

The Demons’ season began to turn around when they won against Mesilla Valley Christian School in the Dexter Invitational Tournament, 48-46. In that game, they received contributions from everybody, but most notably 6-foot-5 big man Bryan Cano, who made his presence felt on the glass and with putback points off missed shots.

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“He’s a very big guy,” Cobos said. “Last year, we run and gun with Cano; he’s been a great asset. With him, we have to slow it down a little bit, but it’s a good thing. We have speed and then we have an inside presence. He’s helped us win some games with his rebounding. Cano is a game changer for us.”

Cobos feels like with Cano manning the middle, his (Cano) greatest ability is to limit other teams one shot and then he’s quick to throw the outlet pass and start Dexter’s fast break. On the offensive end of the floor, other teams have to respect Cano in the middle and his ability to score. Other teams cannot leave their man at the three-point line and double down to help on the inside when he gets the ball. If other teams double down — Cano can kick the ball out to a host of three-point shooters waiting for the ball.

“I told the boys,” Cobos said, “since last year that I was leaving with them.”

Cobos wants to take over the girl’s basketball program after this season since the girls head coach, Greg Barela left, and they are now being coached by assistant coach Karol Fury. Cobos would like to coach his two daughters, Nayeli, a freshman, and Nalani, who is a sixth-grader.

Navajo Prep is not as tall as the Demons, and they do not run, but they have good shooters from the outside. The Eagles do not press, but Cobos wants to use his team’s speed and quickness to get up and down the floor and tire Navajo Prep out.

Cobos also feels like his team cannot let the Eagles get open shots, that they have to put a hand up in the shooters’ faces. They cannot let them get second-chance opportunities. Dexter has to box out and get rebounds. The Demons have gone to a man defense and it has improved as the season has gone along and their help on defense has improved.

“We are going to rely on what got us here,” Cobos said. “Our defense and our fast kids. We’re playing with football and baseball players that are playing basketball. That’s what got us here, and we’re going with that.”

For Dexter, the defining moment of the season was when Cobos was tossed after getting two technical fouls called on him in the Fort Sumner game at home. His team told him that they were going to win the game. Cobos feels like watching these group of seniors grow up with his son, that they are like family and there is mutual respect. Cobos would not have been coaching without the whole group of seniors. He wanted to sit in the stands and enjoy his son, Nick Cobos, the last two years but was persuaded to coach.

“I think God makes moves at the right time,” Cobos said. “I wasn’t looking to coach. I thought about it and felt like God was giving me another chance and giving me some of the years back that you kind of regret as a young guy coaching his son. You know, like yelling at your son when you’re coaching him. I look back and see how rough I was on him, so these last couple of years have helped me, and his friends have helped me out as well because they play so hard.”

Cobos feels like it has been worth it to be able to spend the last two years coaching his son and his friends. He feels like it is time he and Nick can look back with fond memories when they get older. Next year, most of the players on this team will be off to college and they would like to go out with another championship if possible.

Dexter has shown the ability to come from behind this season. In the district championship game against NMMI, they trailed by 10 points going into the fourth quarter. Cobos told his team they were going 100 in the fourth quarter.

Dexter played man-to-man defense — the move shocked NMMI as they committed four turnovers allowing Dexter to score unanswered points until Dexter took the lead with four minutes left to play in the game. Dexter would win the district tournament championship, 58-56.

“That game came down to our defense,” Cobos said, “and trusting our guys one-on-one and putting that pressure on them. I think they got scared and didn’t know what to do. We turned those turnovers into points. It’s a great feeling to win championships with these kids because I know them.”

Dexter will head into the tournament as the No. 10 seed to face the No. 7 seed Navajo Prep. The teams will play at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Consult Wednesday’s RDR sports paper for the bracket.

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