Basketball: Sundevils come back to win title game

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Coles comes up big late, Gallup upsets Kirtland Central in girls championship

By Mike Cote

It was a long time coming, but now the valley now has its biggest reason to cheer.
The Española Valley Sundevils topped the Goddard Rockets Saturday to win their first ever boys basketball title. Rodney Coles scored eight points in the final 2:43 of the fourth quarter to lift the Sundevils over the Rockets 55-52 to claim the Class 4A title.
Española Valley, Los Alamos’ oldest rival and its District 2AAAA opponent, went to the title game in 2010 as a heavy favorite, but lost to the Roswell Coyotes. Española Valley was the odds-on favorite to win in both 2008 and 2009 as well, but lost in the semifinals of the tournament both years.
This year, as a No. 2 seed, the Sundevils went up against the upstart Goddard Rockets, the No. 9 seed in the tournament, who pulled off three consecutive upsets, including dropping the top-seeded Gallup Bengals in the quarterfinals, to reach the finale.
Goddard led by four points with under three minutes remaining, but a steal-and-bucket by Coles cut the lead down to one possession.
Later, Coles buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Española Valley a 49-48 lead. It would hold on to the lead the rest of the way.
The state title is just the second in any sport for the Sundevils. They won the girls cross country title in 1992.
Friday, the Gallup Bengals unseated the Kirtland Central Broncos to win the girls Class 4A state girls basketball championship.
The Bengals, the No. 3 seed in the Class 4A tournament this season, dropped the defending champion and top-seeded Broncos in Friday’s championship game, 60-46.
It is the fifth state championship for Gallup, which denied Kirtland Central its 19th state title. Kirtland Central has only failed to advance to the girls basketball championship game four times since 1979.
Gallup led much of the way Friday night and started to pull away late in the first half and to start off the third quarter.
The state basketball for both boys and girls wrapped up Saturday night. The finales of each of New Mexico’s six classifications were decided this weekend.
The Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team advanced to the 4A tournament but was bounced in the first round by Grants. Grants, in one of its best finishes in the school’s postseason history, advanced to Thursday’s semifinal before falling 53-49 to Kirtland Central.
In Class 3A girls basketball, Santa Fe Indian School grabbed its second straight state championship with a 43-22 victory over Shiprock.
The Braves had a remarkable run in the playoffs, winning their four games by a combined 100 points. Their smallest margin of victory was 16 points against Hope Christian in the 3A semifinals.
Mayfield won the 5A girls title Saturday, topping Cibola 51-42. Navajo Pine dropped Texico 45-41 in the girls 2A title game, Fort Sumner was a 46-39 winner against Tatum in Class A and Elida was a 60-48 winner over Grady in Class B.
In boys basketball, Hope Christian, one of a handful of teams that could legitimately argue for being the best overall in the state, rolled to a 3A state title by dropping Sandia Prep 44-31. Hagerman’s boys were a 70-58 winner over Cliff in Class A.