Chargers Capture District Title With Victory Over Hope

The Academy Boys Varsity Basketball team scored another District title Tuesday, February 7 as the squad defeated the Hope Christian Huskies.

Academy squeaked out a nail-biter as they outplayed the Huskies 57-52.

This was a critical win for the Chargers because the victory clinched a District Championship for the second year in a row. They shined all year against District teams, going undefeated with a 6-0 record and the Chargers are ranked first in the 4A District 6.

This victory extended the Chargers winning streak to five games, continuing their impressive season, in which they’ve racked up a record of 19-3. Hope, which has also proven to be a solid team, fell to 15-9 on the season.

The Chargers in this match-up showed why the team has developed into one that’s among the best in New Mexico. The team continued to show tenacity and perseverance, and why it never gives up.

From the opening tip-off, the underdog Huskies wasted no time as they started the game with a 13-3 run. The Huskies were physical, aggressive, and they hustled for every loose ball. The Chargers, on the other hand, began shaky and didn’t shoot the ball well. They struggled offensively.

But then the Chargers showed why they are District champs.

In the second quarter, Academy became more patient, and they started to execute effectively on offense. The Chargers passed the ball quickly and crisply and started to knock down their outside shots. Then the Chargers showed their true “horsepower” as they started to become more physical. They fought hard in a swirl of sweat for every rebound on both ends. The aggressive, fierce play paid off.

The Chargers suddenly went on a 13-4 run heading into halftime. The Huskies were now only up 1 point and the scoreboard read 17-16 at intermission.

Varsity Assistant Coach, Steve Miera, who was acting head coach this game explained what he told his players in the locker room at halftime.

“I told them, we are down one point, and we played horribly. So I told them that we need to play our game and come back and play well in the second half. I think we executed that.”

The players responded to the coach’s words.

The final two quarters were dominated by the Charger both on offense and defense. Guards Dillon McCleskey ‘24 and Joe Jack ‘24 were the greatest offensive threats in the second half. This duo combined for 33 points of the Chargers total 57 points, as they consistently spotted up for lots of three-pointers and mid-range jump shots.

Jack was dominant and consistent in all aspects of the game. Along with his big 16-point game, he also grabbed 6 rebounds to go along with his 7 assists, nearing a triple double. He led the team in the scoring and passing categories.

Justin Mask ‘24, also made a strong contribution, scoring 9 points and snatching 9 rebounds.

“As a team, we did a good job fighting against Hope because they came out and tried to slow us down,” said McCleskey after the game. “We didn’t let that happen. We played as a unit and a team and we battled back together. We adjusted to their game plan and took control and that’s what won us the game.”

McCleskey, who was the leading scorer for the Chargers with 17 points, spoke about the reason for his individual success.

“I battled back. When you get knocked down, are missing shots, air-balling shots, you just have to stay composed, be a leader, know your teammates have your back and you have their back and keep fighting.”

The guard also talked about how he and his team will prepare for their tough matchup later this week against Del Norte, when they will face Shane Douma-Sanchez ‘23, one of the best players in the state.

“We are going to have to work on stopping Shane. He’s a really talented player, but we play team ball and we just have to play Charger Basketball. They have to stop us as much as we have to stop them. I believe our team is a nightmare for other teams and any of our players will get you at any moment.”

Coach Miera also touched on what he believes his team did well and how the Chargers could improve heading into the Del Norte game.

“I thought we did a great job with our adjustments in the 2nd half on their 3-2 Zone Defense. Their 3-2 Zone in the first half was very solid, and we just struggled. We were very patient off the 3-2. Once we got the ball in the middle of the paint, we were able to get some ball movement and then we were able to start hitting shots. So handling their 3-2 a little better….One thing we could improve on is our patience. Teams are going to want to slow us down, so we need to be patient and work our way up in games.”

Then Miera expressed how it felt to repeat as District Champions.

“It’s awesome! I’m very happy for the program and for the seniors. I’m happy how our program has changed and improved and what we have accomplished as a team.”

The confident 19-3 District Champions play this evening (Friday) at Del Norte.