ALBUQUERQUE — Michael Maya will soon be gracing the courts of Greyhound Arena, when he joins Eastern New Mexico University in the fall.
But he’ll be gracing the courts of The Pit for at least one more night.
Maya scored 36 points, and third-seeded Valley registered an 89-67 victory over Clovis in Wednesday’s Class 5A semifinal at The Pit.
Anthony Santillanes added 19 points for Valley, which led by as many as 25 points. The Vikings move on to today’s 4:45 p.m. semifinal against either Gallup or Mayfield.
Clovis’ season ends at 15-11.
“I’ll never forget it,” Clovis senior Alex Flores said, recounting a season where coach J.D. Isler was suspended by the NMAA, subsequently fired by Clovis Municipal Schools as coach, then reinstated by a federal judge after a drawn-out court battle.
The battle on Bob King Court, however, was one where Valley had all the ammunition. Maya turned in a 10-of-18 shooting night, but he had plenty of help on a night where the Vikings shot 59 percent from the field and 64 percent (9-of-13) from beyond the arc.
“We came out and had everybody hot in the first half,” said Maya, who added four assists. “Everybody’s scoring, everybody’s contributing.”
It was needed, as Clovis held a 56-35 advantage on the boards.
“They absolutely destroyed us,” Valley coach Joe Coleman said. “But I felt we got the ones we needed to get in the second half.”
The Wildcats fell behind 8-0 early, as Maya hit a trey on the opening possession and got a layup off a midcourt steal.
Clovis rallied back behind a monster effort from Marcus Slocum (23 points, 11 rebounds), and led 27-22 midway through the second period.
Valley (21-7) took control with an 11-0 run before halftime, and spent the second half holding off the Wildcats.
Clovis pulled to 50-48 midway through the third stanza, but Santillanes hit two corner 3s a few minutes later for a 58-50 advantage.
“We weren’t supposed to leave him, we were supposed to bluff,” Isler said. “We didn’t play smart, and he got some open looks.”
Santillanes said he spends extra time most practices from the corner spot, because “Mike’s a good passer, and he’ll find me.”
The fourth quarter opened with Slocum fouling out and Isler drawing a technical one minute later. Maya hit both free throws to give the Vikings a 69-54 lead. Those free throws sparked a 14-3 run that turned the game into a blowout.
Throughout the game, Valley’s student section derided the Clovis players with a chant of “you can’t guard him.”
“They gave him the ball, and he just went around anybody guarding him,” Flores said. “Myself included.”
Isler said Maya has always been a solid player.
“He’s been playing since he was a ninth-grader,” Isler said. “I hope the two ninth-graders we have playing for us (John Dawson and D.J. Blackmon) turn out to be like that.”