NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – What would you do to play a state basketball tournament game in front of your hometown fans? After more than a year of social distancing, masks, and no fans in the stands, one high school team made a huge sacrifice to do just that.
It was a fierce game between Cleveland High School and Los Lunas in the quarterfinals of the state basketball tournament. The Los Lunas girls basketball team has won five state titles in the last eight years. This year, they’re looking for their sixth in a higher division. Last year, the Lady Tigers had to play their state championship game in the Pit without fans due to coronavirus restrictions, and this year, they were faced with another obstacle.
Los Lunas Lady Tiger Head Coach, Marty Zeller, said they were supposed to play this game on their home court, but because Valencia County is still in the yellow zone in the state’s ‘Red-to-Green’ reopening framework where fans aren’t allowed. So the team and coaches moved the game to their opponent’s court in Rio Rancho where Sandoval County is in the green. All because they wanted to see their fans in blue and orange in the stands.
“We wanted to make it the most memorable state basketball playoff experience,” said Zeller. “This was the only option to have fans; either play the game at Los Lunas or play at Cleveland.” The fans said the team gave up home-court advantage just to share the game with friends and family.
“For them to see the sea of blue and orange here, the tigers, the shirts, the fans, that is huge for us,” said parents and fans Cynthia Lalonde and Olga Lucero.
Los Lunas won 55 to 48 and will advance to the next round.