Magdalena used a 24-8 run over the final nine minutes of play to put away No. 16 Maxwell (11-14), but the Bears served up a wakeup call before the No. 1 Steers (28-1) came away with a 58-38 win on Saturday in the opening round of the boys Class A state basketball tournament.

“They did a good job in that 2-3 zone of doubling on the ball. I’ve known coach Jimmy Apodaca for years, and he’s going to be aggressive. They don’t lay down for anybody. That’s what’s fun about these kinds of games. You’re going to come out and get into a slugfest. They came out and did an excellent job in the first half of getting our big guys frustrated with double teams and things like that,” Magdalena coach Jory Mirabal said.

It was a tale of two different halves when it came to the officiating, with Joseph Zamora drawing two early fouls and the Steers unable to sink a shot from behind the arc.

“Joe gets two fouls 10 seconds into the game, and that changes our dynamics quite a bit, and then he picked up his third with a minute into the second. I would say that’s probably the biggest factor in that game — Joe sitting on the bench the whole time,” Mirabal said.

If there was a second factor, it was the Steers’ post Jeffery Stuteville, who scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the first half. He did it with Bears players tugging and crawling all over him under the basket.

“Jeff carried us in the first half. He’s got to be sore; when you carry a team like he did in the first half, he came to play. I was proud of him because they (officials) let a lot of stuff go inside,” Mirabal said.

Mirabal wasn’t making any excuses, and his complaint was one he was not familiar with, and after almost a week’s layoff from play might have been a factor. Then there’s the fact Mirabal can be a little stubborn when it comes to controlling a game’s tempo.
“I like to set the tempo with our defense. There are different ways to set that tempo. I came out, and I wanted to put pressure on them and make them make some decisions.

I could have done that in the half court instead of the full court,” Mirabal said. “We haven’t played for a week, so I wanted to get the blood flowing, and I did it for about 10 minutes. Once Joe went out, that’s a big factor when it comes to speed, and I didn’t switch, so I own that.”

What was Mirabal’s other complaint?

“In the first half, I didn’t feel like the effort was where it needed to be, and I was aggravated. We talked a lot about that at halftime,” Mirabal said. Then there were unforced turnovers. Kids are going to make mistakes trying to make plays, but when they get out of character and try to make something out of nothing, they know where we can get our bread and butter—where the Honey Hole is.”

Maxwell kept within striking distance, and Magdalena owned a 25-24 lead at halftime and never fully shook the Bears until starting its finishing run.

With 1:31 remaining in the third quarter, Magdalena was clinging to a narrow 36-33 lead when Steers’ defensive pressure forced turnover after turnover. The scoring was a full-team effort with steals and buckets by Stuteville, Zamora, Krae Stephens and Matthew Parker and assists from Lanbrent Ganadonegro fueling the 24-8 run.

The Steers’ domination was so complete that the Bears went eight minutes over the third and fourth quarters without scoring.

“In the second half, we beat them to the loose balls, and they didn’t get any second-chance shots,” Mirabal said.

Next up for Magdalena was No. 9 Evangel Christian Academy/Oak Grove Classical Academy (19-11) on Wednesday. A 4:45 p.m. Thursday game against No. 4 Melrose at the Rio Rancho Events Center is most likely to follow.

Scoring – Lanbrent Ganadonegro 7, Ayden Herschbach 2, Javen Tafoya, Jeff Stuteville 24, Krae Stephens 4, Shane Montoya, Joseph Zamora 12, Zeb Apachito, Jacob Markland 3, Ky Stephens, Matthew Parker 6.