No. 1 Magdalena completed a perfect District 3-1A slate with a 57-23 win against Cliff on Saturday. It marked the 11th straight league championship for the Steers, and coach Jory Mirabal recorded his 400th career victory.

After the game, Mirabal focused on his 2023-24 Steers and that 11th straight district championship, and it took some goading to get him to admit it was also a benchmark in his storied career.

“I didn’t want to talk too much about it before the game, but that’s our 11th district championship in a row,” Mirabal said.

Something that might be expected from the “best team” Mirabal has ever had.
That’s saying a lot, considering Magdalena has won three state titles and has been a part of the state tournament picture for over a decade. Still, Mirabal’s definition of a “great or best” team doesn’t necessarily factor in great three-point shooting or high-flying slam dunks.

Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain
Magdalena’s Matthew Parker gets a front end layup against Cliff.

“While there might be a few things where we’re not as good as other teams in the past, I don’t know if there’s been a better one as far as looking at themselves in the mirror and trying to get better.,” Mirabal said. “It’s a testament to those boys. They worked their tails off. I don’t know if I’ve had a group work harder than these boys have during the offseason.”

Part of the fire in Magdalena’s gut is how everyone expected the Steers to suffer a huge drop this season, which didn’t sit well with the herd.
“These guys heard all the buzzing about how we’re not supposed to be very good this year. We lost all of our firepower. These guys have no experience,” Mirabal said. “This is a good basketball team.

Wasn’t it also Mirabal’s 400th career victory?
“You know about that? Yes, it’s pretty cool,” Mirabal said. “Those are two memorable things (11th title, 400 wins) in a game of some significance. It’s kind of cool to check those off the list,” Mirabal said. “It’s all about twhose kids. You don’t do those kinds of things as a program without the kind of kids that we’ve had. I’m just blessed to be sitting in the driver’s seat.”

The significance Mirabal mentioned was that the Steers were playing for the District 2-1A tournament championship, and Magdalena was looking to ensure they got the No. 1 ranking heading into the 16-team Class A state tournament bracket.

On the opposite end is No. 2 Fort Sumner/House, and on Magdalena’s side rests many basketball fans’ pick as the tournament’s dark horse, Melrose.

Magdalena’s varsity basketball teams held a Sunday watch party to see where they would end up in the rankings after New Mexico Activities Association officials weighed polls where the Steers are ranked anywhere from 1-5.

“The boys sometimes can get caught up in all this stuff. I think it’s important to reflect that it’s a blessing to be in the tournament,” Mirabal said. “When you put yourself in a position to be in the state tournament, there’s about 30 other teams that don’t get to go on winning.”

The Steers wrapped up their regular season with workmanlike wins over Mesilla Valley Christian School (49-39) and Cliff (57-23) and now will face No. 16 Maxwell (11-13, 4-6) on Saturday at home at 3 p.m.

MVCS Scoring – Lanbrent Ganadonegro 6, Ayden Herschbach 5, Javen Tafoya, Jeff Stuteville 16, Krae Stephens 2, Shane Montoya, Joseph Zamora 17, Zeb Apachito, Jacob Markland, Ky Stephens, Matthew Parker 5.

Cliff Scoring – Scoring – Lanbrent Ganadonegro 2, Ayden Herschbach 5, Javen Tafoya, Jeff Stuteville 10, Krae Stephens 4, Shane Montoya, Joseph Zamora 16, Zeb Apachito, Jacob Markland 5, Ky Stephens 2, Matthew Parker 13.