People find alternate ways to watch NMAA tournament

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People are trying to make the best out of a bad situation after the New Mexico Activities Association closed the state basketball tournament to the public. Now, people are finding other ways to watch games.

For Harrison Dehiya, radio broadcasting is a way to connect to his community.

“There are older people who speak real good Navajo,” Dehiya said. “Their grandchildren are playing and they listen for their names.

The Navajo-speaking broadcaster from Gallup waits all year for the NMAA state basketball tournament. This year, instead of being surrounded by fans inside the arena, he is broadcasting from a small room inside the New Mexico Broadcasters Association.

“I was just telling my audience out there to help me and cheer while I am calling the game here in a single room with no crowd noise,” Dehiya said.

The NMBA invited broadcasters to use their space after the NMAA closed the tournament to the public, including the media.

The NMBA set up monitors and laptops and paid the fee to stream the games.

“It is rural parts of the state that may not be able to watch it on TV or stream it,” Paula Maes with NMBA said. “They depend on radio stations to get them the games. These are the Superbowls for some of these communities.”

Some fans drove three hours to the tournament and are now packing conference rooms in Rio Rancho to cheer on Melrose High School.

“My heart just broke because this is it,” Melrose High parent Summer Lunsford said. “You want to see your babies perform, so we just wanted to do anything we could to show the kids we support them even if we are not right there in the stands.”

Players said it has been off playing in empty stadiums.

“It was definitely weird,” Melrose senior Tristan Sena said.”It is definitely very strange and different. We just had to persevere.”

Communities are coming together to make the most of the unusual circumstances.

The NMBA said any broadcasters are welcome the rest of the tournament, and the families said they plan to stick around until the end, too.

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