The Gateway Christian Warriors (19-8) are making a habit of playing at the state basketball playoffs.
For the second consecutive year they will play in the quarterfinal game. They will take on the number one seed, the Quemado Eagles, Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. at Bernalillo High School. The schools have played each other once this season at the Mescalero Basketball Tournament on Dec. 15, with Quemado winning 55-54.
Quemado (27-1) also beat Ft. Sumner and Hondo Valley to win that tournament, which seems almost a lifetime ago.
Quemado’s only loss of the season was to Magdalena on Jan. 8, 56-52. Since that loss, Quemado has reeled off 16 consecutive wins. However, the Warriors are confident about their chances against the Eagles. They did come within a point of Quemado in December.
“Based on our last showing (a win over Elida) the kids have a lot of confidence coming into this game,” said Warriors head coach Dan Smith.
No other teams besides Magdalena and Ft. Sumner have even stayed close to the Eagles, who are beating their opponents by an average of 25 points per game. Ft. Sumner stayed close at 51-49 before losing at the Mescalero tournament.
The Eagles can score at will too. Their highest output was 80 points against To’hajiilee earlier this year. However, the key to defeating Quemado will be how well the Warriors can play against them defensively, and not allowing them to score more than 50 points.
Leading the defense will be Wyatt Arlet and Jaydon Stephens. Both had multiple blocks against Elida in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday — and Stephens isn’t bad on offense either. He scored 28 points against Elida. “All we ask of the kids is do what we teach them, play as hard as they can, and let the score lie where the score lies,” said Smith.
Smith sounds kind of old school. He is a student of the game. When he’s not coaching, Smith will visit other local high schools games and hope to pick up a tip or two, and if left up to him he wouldn’t mind playing the title game at a crackerjack-sized gym.
“We’ll play at any gym, all the goals are 10 feet high, and we just need to be one more point better than the other team in the end,” he said.
For Gateway’s bracket, please see page B4 of Tuesday’s edition.