New Mexico high school basketball insiders expecting Magdalena to not be among the state’s top Class 1A teams have been surprised by the 9-1 Steers in the 2023-24 season.

Regarding taking care of business on the basketball court, few teams in New Mexico high school boys basketball have enjoyed a decade of domination like that of the Steers. The numbers are mind-boggling when reviewing the Steers’ accomplishments, which include hoisting three state championship trophies, winning back-to-back titles, two of the state’s longest winning and winning an average of 27.3 games a season.

Over the last four years, the Steers are 107-3. Now the Steers are ranked No.2 in Class A basketball, and the only blemish on this year’s slate came on Dec. 23 against 4A Grants in a narrow 64-59 loss.

It was the kind of loss that makes people pay attention and tells just how good Magdalena is this season. Grants is 9-3 on the year and ranked No. 5 in Class 4A. Two of the Pirates’ losses came against undefeated 5A Farmington.

“A lot of the credit goes to these boys. We talked about some things that we knew we needed to do this summer to be competitive. We spent a lot of time talking about that. These guys took all that to heart, and then we have worked hard. I feel like we’re still a work in progress. I don’t think we’re as good as we’re going to be, but we’re definitely off to a good start,” Coach Mirabal said.

Few could disagree with Mirabal’s assessment. Magdalena won its own Steer Stampede, the Texico Classic, was second in Grants, and it has wins against two of District 3-3A teams, Socorro and Hot Springs.

This team differs from last year’s state runner-up, and the Steers aren’t as high-flying or flashy. Instead, Magdalena is more workmanlike, and a snapshot of the team should feature hard hats, sledgehammers and under-construction warning signs.

One of Mirabal’s greatest strengths as a coach is the ability to see several years down the road and adjust his plans accordingly to the skills of the players he has coming up. There are few games where the future isn’t being worked on in one aspect or another. Hitting the weight room has also paid off, and the Steers are a stronger and more physical team this year.

“I think the approach these guys have taken is not getting wrapped up about the difference between summer ball or preseason workouts. We try to simulate game conditions as best we can. I’m trying to put these guys in a situation where practice is more uncomfortable than a game,” Mirabal said. “The adrenaline you get from a game you can use to your benefit because you’re excited to go play. As far as putting them in stressful positions — I get after these guys a lot more in the practice than I ever do in a game.”

The current basketball polls have the Steers at No. 2 and last year’s champions, Fort Sumner, at No. 1, but it’s not a source of motivation for Magdalena.

“We don’t care about basketball poll. We ignore them. Polls are for the parents and basketball fans, but I try to keep the kids focus away from all that,” Mirabal said. W

hat Mirabal is focusing on is happening in March; still, he wants his team to be comfortable being uncomfortable. “We want to simulate a state tournament inside these tournaments. You’re going in there with the idea we have to win three games or play three good games. Hopefully, your tournaments provide you the opportunity to play in that environment against that level of competition. The level of the competition may change from year to year, but we’re still competing with ourselves,” Mirabal said. The 2023-24 Magdalena Steers’ roster includes Zeb Apachito, Lambrent Ganadonegro, Ayden Herschbach, Javen Tofoya, Josiah Candelaria, Jeff Stuteville, Krae Stephens, Shane Montoya, Joe Zamora, Jacob Markland, Ky Stephens and Mattew Parker.