The Journal’s All-Metro boys and girls basketball teams return on Sunday after a two-year absence.
This year, in our return, we have a unique mix. There is a brother and sister among our top 20. There are a pair of cousins. Even several freshmen.
Let’s get to it.
GIRLS: For the first time since I’ve been doing these All-Metro teams in basketball, there are three players from the same school on the first team.
And why wouldn’t it be there? Volcano Vista, the Class 5A state champion, just completed the most dominant big-school season in decades.
Natalia Chavez (16.7 ppg) and Jaelyn Bates (13.4 ppg, 4 spg), the senior backcourt that led the Hawks into three consecutive state finals and the last two 5A titles, and are headed to the University of New Mexico together, naturally compose 40 % of the first team.
They are joined by Volcano Vista’s outstanding sophomore post, Taejhuan “TT” Hill, who averaged 12 points and 8.1 rebounds and posted double-doubles in each of the Hawks’ four postseason victories. On any other team, Hill probably would have averaged 20 points.
Bernalillo senior guard Juliana Aragaon was the state’s leading scorer. Aragon scored 861 points (the sixth-best single season of any player in the state’s history, and first among girls in the metro area), and averaged 29.7 points and 8.1 assists as the Spartans reached the Class 4A state title game.
The fifth member of the first team is the youngest: dynamic Eldorado freshman Bella Hines, who scored 22.5 points a game.
The second team features cousins, junior forward Leilani Love from Albuquerque High and sophomore guard/forward Eva Love from La Cueva. Also on our second team is Sandia freshman guard Sydney Benally (a player whose game reminds me of Volcano Vista’s Chavez at that age) and Highland’s outstanding senior point guard, Deniece Ryan.
The fifth second-teamer is the fourth Volcano Vista Hawk, senior guard Kennedy Brown. I’m not certain I’ve ever selected a player like Brown so much as her statistics are virtually nonexistent.
But Brown was the player that probably made Volcano Vista go more than anyone else with her ball handling, her leadership and her stellar defense. She frequently directed that explosive offense, as well. She belongs here.
BOYS: Four players were easy selections to the Journal’s first team based on their bodies of work.
Those four are senior guards Ja’Kwon Hill (18.5 ppg, 45% from beyond the arc, 60% FG), brother of “TT” Hill, and Kaden Valdez (14 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg) from Volcano Vista, junior guard Exodus Ayers from La Cueva (16.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5 apg) and Highland’s senior giant, 6-foot-9 Jose Murillo (23.9 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 215 career blocked shots).
The coveted fifth slot went to Los Lunas freshman guard Jalin Holland (19.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg). There is already considerable polish on Holland’s game, and his maturation should be thrilling to observe over the next three seasons.
Valdez and Ayers both achieved a rare double with their first-team appearances – they were also first-team wide receivers on the Journal’s All-Metro football team last season.
The second team has some serious variety: Atrisco Heritage senior guard Javier Mendoza, Rio Rancho senior forward Keagan Caton, Belen senior forward/post Daniel Corrales (one of the state’s more underrated paint presences), Cleveland sophomore guard Daniel Steverson and Del Norte junior guard Shane Douma Sanchez.
Douma-Sanchez played only half of Del Norte’s 30 games, but had a huge impact when he returned from a serious knee injury and was his district’s player of the year as the Knights reached the 4A state final, where they fell to Murillo’s Hornets.