Magdalena’s Kael Stephens works his way past a pair of Miyamura defenders during championship action in Grants.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

GRANTS—Magdalena moved to 11-0 on the season as the No. 2 Steers pulled off a 3-0 run over 3A Pine Hill and 4A Grants and Miyamura to win the Grants basketball tournament Dec. 19-21.

The 61-47 win over Miyamura was Magdalena’s sixth game in seven days. Fueled by 30 points from senior D’Shaun Vinyard, the victory was the Steers’ second tournament title in a week.

Playing that much basketball is only made more challenging when considering the Steers were playing 2-3 steps above their 1A classification.

“It’s pretty taxing on a team mentally and physically. But I thought the boys responded to that challenge as far as overall performance,” Steers coach Jory Mirabal said. “Obviously, we still have some things to clean up — especially on offense. But I was happy with what I saw. I see more glimpses of what we can do.”

At the same time, Mirabal also struggled with consistency against Miyamura in a win that could have been 25-30 points wider in the margin of victory.

“We had some inconsistency. I feel like tonight if we made our layups and executed our offense like we should have, the margin of victory should have been larger,” Mirabal said.

Early on, the Steers struggled to match the game’s tempo, and Miyamura established an 8-2 lead, but Mirabal didn’t call a timeout. Instead, he let his players settle into the flow and watched as Magdalena slowly took control.

“If we’re not getting the looks I feel we should get, there’ll be some panic conversations. If we’re not playing solid defensive — I want them to be able to play through it,” Mirabal said. “At that point, there’s still a lot of the game to be played. So, I’m not going to get too rattled. I think it’s good for them mentally to know that they can pull themselves out of that.”

Vinyard’s 30 points highlighted the day, but he was fed regularly by Kael Stephens, who had 12 points Sophomore post. Joseph Zamora picked up nine points and Jeff Stuteville notched six.

While the Steers got plenty of scoring inside, a lot of that came off fast break plays and beating players to the paint. One of the main goals Mirabal has for his post is to have Zamora grow up quickly under the bucket.

Another goal will be for the Steers to cut down on their turnovers.

“Right now, we are working from play-to-play and game-to-game,” Mirabal said. “We are working on all the little things.”

Against Pinehill, the Steers displayed how tough their defense can be with a 20-5 first-quarter run followed up by a 38-5 advantage at halftime. The big lead allowed Mirabal to dig into his bench and work on keeping fresh legs under his players.

Kael Stephens led the scoring against Pinehill with 10, Vinyard netted nine, and Krae Stephens and Zamora came up with six points each as the Steers ended up with a 48-15 win.

It was a tighter contest against 4A Grants. After racing out to a 25-17 advantage at halftime, the Steers missed a slew of third-quarter shots and held just a 31-27 before exploding for a 16-9 final-quarter run.

The Steers have their biggest game of the season coming up against No. 1 Fort Sumner/House on the road on Dec 29. Magdalena opened the season ranked No. 1 and hasn’t lost a game but fell in the rankings to No. 2, while Fort Sumner is 8-1 on the year.

It’s a “revenge” game for fans, but it’s just part of the season’s process for Mirabal.

“We been in this position, quite honestly, we do not spend any time talking about it. We don’t carry that stuff around (being undefeated), so it’s not a burden for us. We have gone into the state tournament before undefeated, and we didn’t come away with a championship,” Mirabal said.