The 1998 Socorro state champion basketball team was honored Saturday night during the state basketball championship finals.
Russell Huffman| El Defensor Chieftain

ALBUQUERQUE—The memories came flooding back for the 1998 Socorro Warriors basketball team as they headed down the ramp of The Pit on March 11 to be celebrated on the 25th anniversary of their state title in Albuquerque.

It comes back like it was just yesterday,” coach Gilbert Peralta said. “This was a team that did a special thing for our community. It’s our first and only state boys basketball championship. It’s been an emotional time when you get to see your basketball family. When we were walking down the stairs today, you could feel it. It just comes back to life. It was yesterday to me.”

Former Warriors traveled from as far away as California and Minnesota. They met for a team dinner organized by their team captain Eric Valencia who scored 78 points during Socorro’s tournament run.

“This is every kid’s dream to having the chance to walk down this ramp, and having a chance to do it again is a dream come true,” Valencia said.

Like his head coach, Valencia felt like 1998 was yesterday.

“I can replay that game every play exactly how it occurred. This is one of the best memories of my life. I’ll never forget it. I got a great team. These guys, we have all of our team back. It’s very special for us and our town. It was the first state championship. It’s the only state championship in basketball, so it’s forever and ever, and it will be a cherished memory for us and the town,” Valencia said.

The New Mexico Athletic Association presented the Warriors at halftime of the Class 3A state boys championship game between No.1 St. Michael’s, a 66-49 winner over No. 4 Robertson.

Each team member was introduced to the attending crowd, which let out a roar of applause in their honor.

Valencia reflected on the 1998 (21-5) state champions being honored.

“I think it shows the power of sports. The power of cherished memories. It’s been 25 years. You know you only live once, and it’s a great feeling. The Pit is a historic venue, and you can’t ask for anything else,” Valencia said.

The 1998 Warriors basketball team includes coach Gilbert Peralta, assistant coaches Gregg Ezell, Randy Valles, Rick Romero and Randy Padilla.

The players included 10-Carl Lukesh, 12-Chris Parra, 14-Jason Romero, 20-Chris Baldonado, 22-Jason Valles, 30-Patrick Murillo, 32-Josh Martinez, 34-Brian Moore, 40-Chris Hedgeman, 42-Josh Armijo, 50-Eric Valencia, 52-Terry Rother, 54-Todd Rother.