Sometimes it’s the little things that are the biggest of all.
It has been a wild and crazy two weeks in sports for Socorro County as all six varsity basketball teams made it into the state tournament. Before all this fades into memory, here are some of this season’s accomplishments.
The ladies of Socorro, Alamo and Magdalena made first-round exits, but each team made remarkable things happen this season.
For the Lady Warriors of Socorro, it was the recovery from an awful start where a 4-18 team made a turnaround to a 5-1 record in District 3-3 play to win the regular-season and district tournament titles.
A young Alamo squad wasn’t expected to be a threat for the District 3-1A crown, but Lady Cougars ran the table with an 8-0 mark and put up a 21-7 overall record and a significant rebound from last year’s 16-13 record. The Lady Cougars’ 21 victories are their best record in recent memory, dating back to 2006 (MaxPreps).
Magdalena’s youthful Steers are rising and will likely be a more significant part of the postseason next year. Magdalena’s 13-15 record overshadowed a formidable schedule, and their opponents’ strength probably helped the Steers land a No. 15 seed. Mag’s 49-45 loss to No. 3 Cliff closing out district play was just one case to lift the Steers into the state tournament.
Notable accomplishments weren’t reserved for girls basketball as the boys teams in Socorro County also established their brands on their programs.
In Socorro, the Warriors had a similar story to their female counterparts, with a brutal road schedule leading to a 4-17 start. Socorro flipped that all around and won eight of its last 10 games, including a 6-0 run through District 3-3A and a 57-53 tournament road win over Tohatchi, a team the Warriors lost by 12 points earlier in the year.
The 2022-23 Cougars took Alamo Navajo to new heights in basketball as they won the school’s first-ever district championship and recorded its first-ever state tournament win. Alamo’s 24-5 record is also the best-ever in school history, and the Cougars’ losses came against top 3 Class A and 2A opponents.
Being a high school basketball fan, each of the county’s teams bowing out of the state tournament was a bit of a personal blow. If you have seen me at a basketball game, you know I like to interact with the players and let them know I’m in their corner – even when I have to be in both corners at once.
Also on this year’s list of accomplishments is the Magdalena Steers, whose incredible run ended in Saturday’s Class A state championship game. Magdalena went 30-0 before the title tilt and saw its historic 45-game winning streak end. That mark ranks third all-time in New Mexico boys basketball history.
Those are some pretty incredible things, but they all rank second to what I saw Saturday at The Pit in the waning seconds of Magdalena’s 45-43 loss to Fort Sumner/House.
Senior Kael Stephens committed a selfless foul to get Magdalena another possession, and the move worked, but it also put him out of the game with his fifth whistle. Stephens watched his brother, Krae, come in and sink a three-pointer to tie the game for a possible overtime.
Then a worst-case scenario unraveled as a mental miscue led to a foul and free throws that snatched the Steer’s third-straight championship away. For a few moments, Stephens sank to the floor in a ball – the dream was over. There was nothing left that the big man could do for his team.
But when he looked up into the tearful eyes of sophomore Joseph Zamora, who had sunk onto the bench and buried his head into his hands, Stephens realized there was something he could still do for the Steers.
Doing what leaders do, Stephens picked himself off the floor and sat down, putting his left arm around the sobbing player’s shoulders. Not a word was spoken as the two sat there. It was a gentle act of comfort that let the young man know things would be okay and that his teammate was there for him.
Sometimes the littlest things are the most important things of all.