Senior guard Warren Chewiwi had a game-high 15 points for Socorro in the state tournament quarterfinals.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

RIO RANCHO—After an 8-8 first quarter, Socorro went through a scoring lull, and eventual state champion St. Michael’s handed the Warriors a 79-32 loss in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A boys basketball tournament at the Rio Rancho Events Center on March 8.

The loss ends an excellent run to close out the 2022-23 season where Socorro (12-17, 6-0) earned the nickname the “Road Warriors” after playing 23 road games in a planned out quest by head coach J.J. Griego to run undefeated through the District 3-3A schedule undefeated.

“We’re trying to develop a program, and it takes more than two or three years. We have a good foundation and a good start. We have some outstanding players coming back next year. And you know, the key is just get in this thing (state tournament) every year and give yourself an opportunity,” Griego said.

The strategy worked in the first round as the No. 9 Warriors upset No. 8 Tohatchi on the road 57-53. It proved Socorro’s development after being beaten by Tohatchi 73-61 in January.

Against St. Michael’s, things started tight, but things exploded for the Horsemen in the second quarter when the rebounds went their way, and so did their fast-break offense. Socorro had problems transitioning back onto defense, and a 21-9 run left the score at 29-17 at halftime.

Socorro only lost a little ground in a 17-14 third quarter but a second-half shooting percentage of .194 while the Horsemen were hitting .510, headed off all hopes of a rally. Respectable first-half .375 shooting sank to .154 from behind the three-point arc.

Warren Chewiwi topped the Warriors’ scoring with 15 points, but the Warriors needed help generating points from other spots on the court. William Griego was next on the scoring chart with six points, and Andrew Handrich and Marcus Armijo netted four points each. At the same time, Damian Greenwood 3, Cobe Hardin 2, Fernando Torres 2, Alex Amaro 2, and Jerrick Stapleton 1 rounded out the Warriors’ scoring.

Socorro did end up dominating the defensive boards as the Warriors snared 30 rebounds on defense while the Horsemen came up with 19. Handrich led the way with 11 rebounds, Greenwood collected six and Griego pulled in five.

“These kids, I can say – is that give it their all. They gave it to all they give to all season. I gave them such an uphill road. I’m proud of every one of them. You know, we didn’t lose our heads. We didn’t lose anything. Just tonight. We lost the basketball game against an outstanding basketball team.”

Griego was blunt in his takeaway about the game.

“At the end of the game, we had to send everybody to get boards. We had trouble all night holding on to the ball, Griego said. “They just picked it up and just chucked it down there. And they’re cherry picking – there’s nothing other than trying to finish hard.”

Finishing hard is how the Warriors rounded out their season after a miserable 3-17 start to a 6-0 run through District 3-3A basketball to win the regular-season and district-tournament titles.

Junior guard Jason Padilla is raring to go for next season.

“We’re going to be back, and we will be better,” Padilla said. “This season has made us tough.”