Cleveland grinds out powerful win vs. Cibola » Albuquerque Journal

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Mia Nelson of Cleveland High, center, is defended by three Cibola players. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / magazine)

New Mexico has any number of prep teams like the Cleveland High Girls who are leading precarious lives in the playoff bubble this week.

The bubble of the storm on Tuesday night avoided a needle prick from Cibola.

Alexa Madueño scored eight of her 10 points – and eight of her team’s 10 points – for seventh Cleveland (9-2, 5-2 in District 1-5A) on Tuesday in the crucial fourth quarter when Cleveland got a tough score on Vital, 35 -32 victory against Cibola (4-5, 4-4).

Cleveland High’s Isabelle Valdez shoots Cibola in Cibola on Tuesday night. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / magazine)

“Our two defeats are currently to an excellent Volcano (Vista) team and I know … we may not have that much respect over the past few years,” said Cleveland coach Susan Kubala. “Not us like in Cleveland, but our district.”

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The storm is ranked 3rd by MaxPreps. com, just behind Hobbs and Volcano Vista, and Cleveland ended its regular season against Rio Rancho on Thursday. Cleveland is ranked 7th by the 5A coaches.

But with only three general bids for the state tournament in class 5A and with more than three teams in the mix for those bids, a loss to the Cougars on Tuesday could have ruined Cleveland’s hopes.

“We definitely deserve to be there,” said Madueño, a senior citizen who made 4 of her 5 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.

Cleveland is one of a large group of teams that will have to take every win by Saturday, when the regular season ends.

“It’s free if we don’t take care of business on Thursday,” said Kubala. “But we have enabled ourselves to make it really difficult for them not to choose us.”

Carlsbad is one of the other teams in this group. So also Farmington, Eldorado and Sandia as well as slightly longer recordings like Albuquerque High and Oñate. From 2-5A, La Cueva, who leads the league and beat Farmington 64-61 with a 3-pointer from Rylie Ottmann on Tuesday, doesn’t have to do anything worse than sharing his two games with Eldorado on Thursday and Friday and the first Place to reach this tough district.

The three undefeated 5A’s – Hobbs, Volcano Vista and Centennial – sit nicely. Centennial and Volcano Vista won their district championships Tuesday night, and the Eagles are hugely popular when they catch up later this week.

CLEVELAND 35, CIBOLA 32

CLEVELAND (9-2, 5-2 in 1-5A): Hannah Lammen 2, Shawntae Salazar 5, Alexa Madueno 10, Isabelle Valdez 5, Brenna Wolfe 2, Allyson Frank 8, Bridgett Ignacio 3. Total 13 7-12 35.

CIBOLA (4-5, 4-4): Sophia Sena 9, Azia Himeur 6, Grace Salmon 15, Ayana Lloyd 2. Total 14 2-8 32.

Cleveland 7 13 5 10-35

Cibola 13 8 5 6 – 32

3-point goals: Cle 2 (Salazar, Ignacio); Cib 2 (Sena, Himeur). Total fouls: Cle 9; Cib 14.