The unkindest slight of all

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When the Class 4A boys basketball state championship brackets came out on Sunday, there were some surprises.


But as I sat with the panel on the www.proviewnetworks.com selection show, the point came up that the top of the bracket would not be the hard part of consideration by the New Mexico Activities Association selection committee.
It would be the bottom of the bracket. The last team in would cause some state-wide discussion.
The last team out would be the Belen Eagles. This was a team that had begun to fulfill their promising future a little too late.
The Eagles certainly did enough to get in, according to the panel of some of the top journalists to follow the high school game in the state.
Belen won their last three District 6-4A regular season games in a row, including a win at Grants, to finish at 5-5 and third place in the district.
They won at home against Valencia in the first round of the district playoffs and then pulled a huge upset on the road at Gallup, 66-63.
Belen came within seven points of No. 3 Los Lunas in the district championship on Friday night and the consensus was that the Eagles had played their way into the post-season.
The top of the bracket was fairly clear. Roswell, at 23-2, would be the top-seed. St. Pius was a clear No. 2, with Los Lunas No. 3.
Their were four teams in the running for the bottom three slots. Here are the resumes:
Santa Fe (14-15, 3-5 in District 2-4A), did not make the finals of their district tourney and went 6-4 in their last 10 games.
Goddard (11-14, 0-4 in 4-4A) lost by 21 points to Roswell in the district playoffs, was 3-7 in their last 10 games and did not win a district regular season game.
Piedra Vista (15-14, 3-3 in 1-4A) was 6-4 in their last 10 games and lost to Farmington in the district championship by three points.
Belen (12-15, 5-5) was 6-4 in their last 10 games and made a spectacular run through the district playoffs.
For Zach Martin, Nick Kurtz and Ray Montoya, the snub means that they will not see playoff action in their high school careers.
The first words out of both coach Pat Mondragon’s and athletic director Rodney Wright’s mouths were that this was a travesty for the kids.
I could not agree more and want to shout out a “well done” to those Belen seniors.
But I also have to point out that it never would have been a decision had not Belen lost a late-season game at Socorro, lost to Grants at home, blown a 10-point lead at Albuquerque Academy or lost at Bernalillo after holding a late lead.
Belen also lost at Santa Fe (58-53), to Piedra Vista (75-66), at Del Norte (63-54) and at Socorro (60-48).
I guess the point is to not leave it in the hands of the committee. How ever great a travesty it is that Goddard is in and Belen is out, comes down to the Eagles having done enough in those winnable games to be further up the pecking order in Class 4A.
It was still a remarkable turn around for the Eagles in the late season. They should have been rewarded for the tremendous effort.
Goddard was the obvious choice to be left out of the field in favor of Belen. To not win a game in your district, as opposed to an upset win in basketball crazy Gallup, well I would have thought it would not take a rocket scientist.
I guess there weren’t many of those around on selection Sunday.


-- Email the author at mstearns@news-bulletin.com.