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Setting the table for Week 2 of the high school state basketball tournament

Mar. 10—Appetizers? Consumed.

Main courses? They're in the oven.

And there's plenty to choose from on this menu as we arrive at Week 2 of the high school state basketball tournament.

New Mexico's greatest sporting spectacle kicks into high gear promptly at 8 a.m. Tuesday, with games inside the Pit and the Rio Rancho Events Center.

This is the most frantic and exciting 110 hours on the the state's athletic calendar, ending at around 10 p.m. Saturday, by which point the walk up the ramp (for at least one of us) seems more like a hike up Everest.

So what's your pleasure?

If you are craving filet mignon and lobster, there's an abundance of options.

The Volcano Vista boys have only lost two games in the last three seasons, and the only team that has beaten them in that stretch surprisingly didn't make it to Week 2. The Hawks' pursuit of a third consecutive Class 5A championship is going to keep us riveted.

No girls program in the state can match Kirtland Central's 20 state titles. The Broncos are looking for blackjack this week, and are the No. 1 seed in Class 4A. Challengers include St. Pius and Gallup, but it's going to take something special to unseat this elite KC bunch.

The Hobbs girls are going for a seventh straight championship game appearance, and just pause to consider the brilliance of this run by the Eagles. They are back as the 1 seed in Class 5A this week.

And so many other pristine options, as well.

Spicy offerings? There's a few of them, too.

Here's one: the Atrisco Heritage Academy Jaguars, a fast-moving and dynamic outfit that averages about 80 points against schools whose initials are not "VV." (They averaged less than 62 against Volcano in three games, and they could hook up again in Thursday's semifinals.) The Jaguars hit the 100-point mark three times this season, including 106 in mid-December against the team they're playing on Tuesday in the quarterfinals, La Cueva, and topped 90 on four other occasions. This is a money's worth-type of basketball team.

Of course, the superiority of District 1-5A has been well documented, and we'll see if this run continues. That league has won seven of the last eight state titles in 5A boys, Las Cruces (2020) being the exception.

There's a Cinderella section to this menu.

The higher seeds went a combined 73-7 in the first round, and four double-digit seeds are still around in Week 2 to possibly supply some more anarchy.

The Deming girls are an 11 seed. So are the Albuquerque High boys, and it'll be great to have the Bulldogs and their fan base back at the Pit. They haven't been down that ramp in nine years. Dora's girls are seeded No. 10.

But the longest shot left on the board are the Sandia High boys, the 14 seed in 5A, who upset No. 3 Cleveland on Saturday night. This is the lowest-seeded team to reach the quarterfinals in the boys largest division since Organ Mountain, a 15, got there in 2019.

Sandia and AHS are facing each other on Wednesday morning, which means we'll have one double-digit seed playing for a berth in the 5A state final come Thursday.

Star power? Oh yes, there is plenty of that. So much that we can't get to everybody.

The boys player considered to be New Mexico's best, Los Lunas junior guard Jalin Holland, will be at the Pit on Wednesday. New Mexico's primary girls needle mover, junior guard Bella Hines of Eldorado, the state's leading scorer, will be featured on Tuesday, in a marvelous quarterfinal matchup with Sandia's marvelous Sydney Benally. Those two have five dozen Division I scholarship offers between them.

Latavious Morris of Atrisco Heritage is a compelling watch, and this kid can fill the bucket in bunches. Isaiah Maldonado of AHS has been lighting teams up all season. Jesus Licon of Highland? Dude is a threat to launch when he crosses the midcourt line.

Kapiolani Anitielu of Farmington, Taejhuan Hill of Volcano Vista. Caitlin Turnbow of Organ Mountain. Eva Love of La Cueva. Many other rich talents besides Benally and Hines on the girls' side.

A girl I wrote about in December, Harper Dunn of Corona, is here in the metro area on Wednesday with the Corona/Vaughn co-op in Class 1A. She is a 6-5 freshman with multiple D-1 offers already on her plate.

Not sure how to classify on our menu the five boys Class 4A teams that fill up the top five seed lines, but the odds of an all-Albuquerque final come Saturday afternoon seem pretty good. Let's call them chef recommendations.

Redemption tales? Sure, there are a few brewing on the back burner.

Robertson lost in the 3A boys state final last year. The Cardinals are seeded No. 1 this week. The Academy for Technology and the Classics (more commonly known as ATC) lost in the 2A boys state final last year. They are seeded No. 1 this week. Magdalena lost in the 1A boys state final last year. They are seeded No. 1 this week.

Kirtland Central's girls lost in the 4A final last March to Gallup. You know about the Broncos. Organ Mountain's boys would dearly love another crack at Volcano Vista after a tight state semifinal loss to the Hawks 12 months ago.

Electric atmospheres? Oooooh boy, there will be plenty of that.

The Rio Rancho Events Center, both on Tuesday and Wednesday, has a lineup of games that are going to feature some of the state's most passionate fan bases, most all of them from the northern half of the state. The quarters in Class 3A, with the girls on Tuesday and the boys on Wednesday, should make quality seats hard to come by in Rio Rancho.

The noise levels at the RREC in the first several days might even surpass what we see at the Pit in the early stages of the week, though a potential Kirtland Central-Gallup girls semifinal on Thursday might create the loudest decibel level of the week.

What can always be said about Week 2 of the state tournament is that it pretty much never fails to deliver or disappoint, and frequently reaches that exalted combination of epic basketball and roof-raising spectators.

As always, we hope for plenty of shock and surprise. Think about the No. 1 team in Class 1A girls, the Roy/Mosquero co-op, which rampaged through nearly the entirety of its schedule — save for a loss to 4A Bloomfield — and then found itself in an unexpectedly crazy close first-round game with No. 16 Animas.

You never know. That's the enduring beauty of this week, and this tournament.

You never know. That's part of what gets the juices flowing for Week 2.

You never know. That's sort of what we all secretly root for.

So what awaits us between now and Saturday night? There are 80 teams remaining, 70 games on the schedule, and the evergreen guarantee of joy and heartache.

Eat up and enjoy, everyone.