Peerman's Power Rankings: 10 best things in New Mexico sports this week (Jan. 14)

Jan. 14—Welcome to Peerman's Power Rankings (PPR), the 10 athletes, teams and story lines that have Journal sports editor Lucas Peerman's attention. Look for a new power rankings list every Sunday.

Have a suggestion, complaint or compliment? Email or contact me on X @LucasPeerman.

10. Tre Watson

This Rio Rancho native and former Cleveland Storm star committed to play football for the Aggies this week (no, not those Aggies, the ones from College Station, Texas). After a stellar three years playing tight end for Fresno State, Watson entered the transfer portal after the 2023 season and first committed to national runner-up Washington to play for coach Kalen DeBoer, who helped recruit him to the Bulldogs in 2021. But Watson decommitted from the Huskies when DeBoer committed to becoming Alabama's head coach. Congrats to Watson for also finding a home in the SEC, with Texas A&M.

9. La Cueva girls

The fourth-ranked Bears didn't win the Albuquerque metro championship (more on the tournament champs below), but La Cueva did make an impressive run to the title game. In the quarterfinals, La Cueva stymied Eldorado and star Bella Hines (who scored 29, but on 11-for-40 shooting, by far her worst performance of the year) to win 46-38. Then, the Bears beat top-ranked Hobbs 57-54, handing the defending state champion Eagles their first loss to a New Mexico team this year. Bears Eva Love (17.3 ppg) and Jordan Dyer (15.1) may be the best 1-2 combo in the state.

8. Milk Duds

UNM Lobo ball boy Jack Pitino (Lobos coach Richard Pitino's son) won an on-court tic-tac-toe contest during a timeout at Saturday's UNM-San Diego State game. His prize? A box of Milk Duds, which ranks No. 3 on PPR's list of best candy. Only Whoppers and Reece's Pieces are better. Congrats to both Pitinos on their victories this weekend.

7. Nuclear Shootout

The UNM club hockey team brought in three other teams for this past weekend's Nuclear Shootout at the Los Alamos County Ice Rink, which is "right in the middle of nature," as coach Logan Lemirande told the Journal. And what a beautiful weekend it was to strap on those skates and carve some ice outdoors. You know what's even cooler than the venue? The Lobos upset previously unbeaten Air Force 4-1 during tournament action Saturday. Way to make New Mexico proud!

6. Mountain West men's basketball

One could argue the Mountain West should shed its "mid-major" label in men's basketball. Six MW teams (San Diego State, Utah State, Colorado State, Boise State, Nevada and New Mexico) are ranked in the top 50 of the ratings. That's more top-50 teams than the ACC and Pac-12 and just as many as the Big East. Only the Big 10, Big 12 and SEC have more teams on that list. That's huge, or should we say "major," for the Mountain West. It'll be a gauntlet for the conference title and so, so fun to watch this season.

5. Addison Massey

Addison Massey of Las Cruces High School has been named the 2023-24 Gatorade New Mexico Volleyball Player of the Year. The 6-foot outside hitter led the Bulldawgs to a 26-2 record and the Class 5A state championship this past season. Massey, who is home-schooled, has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom, according to the news release announcing her award. Also, she's only a sophomore! Congrats to Addison, who has two more years of killin' in on the volleyball court here in New Mexico before she leaves for one of those big-time college programs. Or maybe not? We do know one thing: Cherry red or crimson would look good on you, Addison!

4. Kenyon Aguino and David Lunn

Volcano Vista, the defending boys 5A state champions, added another trophy to the case this weekend: The 2024 Albuquerque Metro Basketball Championship. The 15-1 Hawks are bulldozing through their competition and avenged their only loss of the year with a 63-56 win over Cleveland in the title game. Volcano Vista stars Kenyon Aguino and David Lunn combined to score 56 in that game. Aguino, at 6-7, is the most dominant post in high school. Pair him with the freshman sensation Lunn, a 6-4 wing, and PPR would be surprised if they lose another game this season.

3. Volcano Vista girls

Both Volcano Vista teams, boys and girls, won the metro titles on Saturday. PPR ranks the girls team higher because they came into the tournament ranked No. 5 and were a relative longshot to win the title. "I think this really sets us up to put us back on the market," Hawks guard Mila Espinoza told the Journal after Volcano Vista beat La Cueva 46-41 on Saturday. Yes, the Hawks (11-5) proved they (still) belong in the conversation to win the Blue Trophy in March.

2. Jaelen House and JT Toppin

What an incredible performance the UNM men's basketball team put on Saturday, crushing No. 19 San Diego State 88-70 in front of a sold-out Pit and in front of a national TV audience. Tenacious, relentless and unyielding were all words used by the CBS commentators to describe Lobos guard Jaelen House, the 6-foot sparkplug on offense (26 points, 5 assists) and defense (6 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block) the unquestioned star of the show who demanded the cameraman's full attention. But give JT Toppin the award for best supporting man. The 6-9 freshman recorded 17 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, but it was the way in which he overshadowed the Aztecs' All-America candidate Jaedon LeDee that made the biggest statement. The Lobos at their best (a rarity) are a Top 25 team. Keep it up!

1. The Pit

The attendance for Saturday's big game (15,437 fans) was the highest in the Pit in 15 years. The crowd's cheers and jeers reverberated, raising the energy to levels only a true bastion of basketball can hold. Lobo fans, this Aggie salutes you. When the Pit is rockin', there's no better venue in any sport in the state. One question: Can fans recreate that atmosphere for Tuesday's game against a ranked Utah State squad? Consider this your challenge for the week.

Honorable mention

New Mexico United: The Black and Yellow have announced a number of big signings in the past couple of weeks, none more noteworthy than Abu Danladi, a former MLS No. 1 pick. The season starts March 9.

Curling: From the article on Roadrunner Club Curling, which strives to introduce the sport to New Mexicans: "When you watch it on TV, it looks pretty easy. A lot of people I get are like, 'I could do that. I could be in the Olympics.' Those are the people that I want to come try it because it's a blast, and it's way harder than you expect it to be," said Michael King, RCC president.

Don Perkins: The family of Don Perkins, one of the greatest football players in New Mexico's history, gathered with city officials to dedicate an Albuquerque Police substation in his honor. Following a stellar career on the gridiron with the Lobos and Dallas Cowboys, Perkins returned to Albuquerque and worked as a crime prevention specialist and community liaison.

End of the Bench

Each week, UNM men's basketball beat reporter Geoff Grammer picks which Mountain West teams he thinks are going to win based on the betting spread. For the season, he's 4-15. His teenage daughter, who flips a coin to make her picks, is 12-7. PPR is glad Geoff continues to make his picks public on X. That way, bettors can pick the opposite and have about an 80 percent chance of coming out ahead.

Previous PPRs

Jan. 7Notable sports stories in 2023Dec. 24