Maybe things are starting to settle down. The Manzano High girls Basketball team had some old-fashioned fun as the Monarchs defeated Volcano Vista 52-41 in both teams' season opener at Manzano on Monday night.
"I was actually relaxed out there," said Monarch senior Whitney Polosky. "It wasn't like the last two years where I was all tense."
Polosky, a Tijeras resident, was the key to her team's breaking the Hawks' full-court press via the dribble in the second half.
The Manzano girls have gone through a lot. Their former coach, Nick Salazar, was, in effect, run off campus in the midst of the 2007-08 season, and their current coach, Raul Diaz, took over on Jan. 14.
Salazar now coaches the Highland girls. The Monarchs were 7-20, 1-7 in District 5-5A last season.
"I did actually (have fun Monday)," said Manzano junior Alysia Dow. "I think it was the first time in a long time I've had fun playing Basketball. Last year was crazy."
Dow, who lives in Edgewood, canned a 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give her team a 38-28 lead.
Monarch junior Ashley Clevenger, fresh off her setter duties at the state volleyball tournament, swished four 3-pointers, including two treys early in the fourth. The second-half bombs gave Manzano a 44-29 cushion with 5:10 remaining in the contest, and the Monarchs were able to hold on for the win.
"The volleyball players (including Dow, Polosky, Clevenger and Victoria Ramirez) only had three practices," Polosky said. "It was extremely weird out there, just bouncing the ball and shooting. (Diaz) had the Basketball and volleyball girls separated (at the outset), but we came together in the second half."
The game was the first varsity contest ever for Volcano Vista, a fledgling Albuquerque Public Schools institution located on the West Side.
The difference between C-team play, which the Hawks scheduled last year rather than junior varsity, and varsity is significant.
"It's huge," Volcano Vista coach Lisa Villareal said. "They were big and strong... We got outmuscled."
The Class 4A Hawks, with no seniors on their roster, did shine in one category. After trailing 5A Manzano 14-6 in the first quarter, VVHS sank 13 of 14 free throws from the charity stripe in the second quarter to close the gap to 23-21 by halftime.
VVHS was 22-of-29 for a 75.9 percent performance from the line for the entire game. The Monarchs were 5-of-10 for 50 percent.
"That (free throws) kept us in the game for a while," Villareal said. "We try to work on them every day, but there are so many things we need to work on. But all of this is in preparation for District (6-4A play against St. Pius, Grants and Belen). We have 25 more games to go, and only the last six really count."
The Monarchs came out blazing and had a 12-2 lead at the 3:05 mark of the first quarter. Clevenger hit two 3s, both from the left corner.
Errant passes by Manzano and a feisty flurry of offensive activity from the Hawk freshman Emma Fenske brought the Hawks to within six. Manzano's Evangeline Samora scored on a leaner with 50 seconds remaining in the initial period.
Clevenger led the Monarchs with 12 points, Courtney Leslie contributed 10, and Yrisarri's April Semler, a junior, chipped in 9.
Manzano's producers also included Polosky (6), Jennifer Holyfield (4), Rebecca Sanchez (4), Dow (3), Ramirez (2) and Samora (2). Fenske had a game-high 17 points for the Hawks.
At first glance, it appeared Polosky had taken it to the hole in a streaking dipsydo of a move to draw a foul with 4:06 left in the game. But it was Sara Evans that made the Polosky-like drive.
Polosky happily rushed forward to congratulate her freshman teammate. However, Evans, who lives in Cedar Crest, proceeded to miss the resultant pair of free throws.
The Monarchs didn't fare as well at Belen on Tuesday. The 4A Eagles edged Manzano 51-50 with Holyfield's 14 points from the post leading the visitors.
"The girls are making the effort that I need from them, and they have a great attitude," Diaz said. "But we still have a lot of work to do in implementing our (four-out motion-offense) system. We open at home against St. Pius in the metro tournament (Monday). We want to play those tough teams."
The Monarchs (18-12, 4-4 in district last season) defeated 4A Del Norte 49-35 in their season opener at the Knights' gym on Monday. Edgewood's Jordan Burd paced Manzano with 12 points.
The Purple Pride will also participate in the boys' metro tourney next week. The Monarchs will play their initial games at Valley.