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Robertson completes season sweep of West Las Vegas

Mar. 13—RIO RANCHO — Robertson wasn't ready to go home just yet.

The top seed in the boys' Class 3A bracket made the two-hour drive south Wednesday with its suitcases packed with enough gear to survive a few days in the Metro area.

Thanks to a late push that came with some tough defense, the Cardinals can go ahead and stick around until the weekend. Getting 23 points from guard Jesse James Gonzales and eight rebounds and nine points from Nathaniel Gonzales, Roberston (26-2) held off intracity rival West Las Vegas 62-52 in the Rio Rancho Events Center.

It sends the Cardinals into Friday's state semifinals in The Pit against No. 4 Hot Springs. The Tigers eliminated No. 5 Bosque 57-48 in an early quarterfinal Wednesday morning.

"I sure as hell didn't want to go home," said Robertson coach James Branch. "I mean, we brought a lot of clothes. I'm not joking. I brought, like, three suits. I got my red blazer and everything. I didn't want to take all that stuff back yet. We came down here thinking we'd stay a while."

The teams' three previous meetings were all comfortable wins for the Cardinals. Their average margin of victory was 17 points, but when West Las Vegas's P.J. Montaño hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions late in the second quarter, the Dons were within 24-23 as halftime approached.

It remained close until a flurry of run-outs helped push the Cardinals' lead to 44-34. Brian Lucero scored all four of his points in the run, twice converting fastbreak layups as the game started to resemble the kind of blacktop pickup affair one might expect of two city rivals whose players have faced one another for a lifetime.

"It's always a dog fight when we play them," Jesse James Gonzales said. "We already played 'em three times and we got 'em three times but it's tough to beat a team four times — especially when it's your own district. No matter what seed they are it's March and in March any team can come out and play good."

West got 21 points from Montano and a double-double, 12 rebounds and 10 points, from Devaughn Kensey. Robertson's main focus was to limit the damage Kensey and his brother, Deshaun, did on the glass.

"Rebounding, simple as that," Gonzales said. "The Kensey brothers get a lot of them and we knew we had to make things harder on them."

Both teams struggled to finish layups at the rim, although Robertson dramatically improved on offense as the game wore on. The Cardinals shot 55% in the second half and wound up forcing 23 Dons turnovers.

Branch lauded the play of his young team, saying the goal was to come into the the tournament knowing they'd take everyone's best shot.

"We've been here before but we've got a lot of younger guys who haven't," Branch said. "I think we're showing that we could be coming back to this place a few more years."

This will be Robertson's fourth straight trip to the state semifinals.