Laguna-Acoma Hawks earn first hoops title

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, March 21, 2013

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Laguna-Acoma's Augustus Cuch hugs Anthony Carpio (21) as they celebrate their victory over the Dexter Demons for the New Mexico Class 2A boy's state basketball championship title at the Pit in Albuquerque.

SECOND FROM TOP: Laguna-Acoma's Anthony Carpio (21) attempts a jump shot against a defending Dexter Demon player during the New Mexico Class 2A boy's state basketball championship game at the Pit in Albuquerque.

N ot that they needed reminding, but the Laguna-Acoma boys basketball team are in a class of their own.

On Saturday, the top-seeded Hawks captured their first state basketball title in the school's 64-year history by taking down No. 3 Dexter, 51-39, in the Class 2A bracket before a large crowd at the Pit in Albuquerque.

"This is too much to experience right now, it feels like it's not even real," Laguna-Acoma senior point guard Anthony Carpio said. "There is no other team on Earth I would do this with."

Hawk coach Ryan Peil shared Carpio's sentiments and went on to say that his team was destined to win the championship after being knocked out of the tournament, prematurely, in the quarterfinals last year.

"I wouldn't want to coach any other team, the sad part is that we have five guys graduating," Peil said. "That's going to be rough and that was why we had to get it done today because these guys don't have another opportunity. The seniors have to grasp that and realize that they get one shot.

"They did that and I am so happy for them," he added.

With a deep bench, the Laguna-Acoma bunch wore down the Demons as they stretched out a 27-22 lead midway through the third quarter into a 45-31 cushion with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

In that run, Carpio went on a tear and scored seven of his game-best 23 points while fellow senior Austin Jones helped out with six.

"They were pressing us so that created lanes for us," Carpio said. "We got some easy buckets with back cuts."

Much to their dismay, the Demons had a tough time connecting with the basket as they missed 12 shots in that stretch.

"We're hurt and we're devastated," Dexter coach James Voight said. "We worked so hard all year long and we just came up short. Our shots were just not falling for us that usually do."

Despite trailing for all of the second half Voight said they had their chances to get back into the game.

"…If our shots had fallen it would have changed the momentum," he said.

For the game Dexter made 13-of-43 from the field for 30 percent with David Lopez leading the way with a dozen points while Kevin Bonner and Kevin Paez added nine and seven, respectively.

Laguna-Acoma, meanwhile, went 20-of-38 for 53 percent. Most of those shots were from close range. But the most telling part between the two teams was the comfort level.

"I think we were just ready to play," Jones said. "We've been waiting for this since before the beginning of the season."

"We were comfortable because we knew what we had to do," Laguna guard CJ Salvador added. "As seniors we had step up our game to show these young ones how to dictate the tempo of the game."

Of course they did that with their defense. Besides holding Dexter to a dismal shooting performance, they also forced 17 turnovers, which led 15 points on their end.

"We revolve around our defense," Salvador said. "That enables us to win and it brought us this far. You can't win championships without playing defense."

In addition to Carpio, Jones and Salvador, the Hawks will lose Josh Paytiamo and Cameron Riley to graduation. Nonetheless Peil said they'll enjoy this before they start thinking of next year.

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