Tournament Heavy Schedule Paying Off For Battle-Tested Taos Tigers
Hernando Chavez is in his 5th year as head coach of the Taos High School boys basketball team. It’s probably a safe bet he has a packed travel bag ready to go in his vehicle at all times. The Tigers have only played four home games so far this season, but it was designed that way. 12 of their 20 games have come at a neutral site in a tournament format. “Up here in the north, we’re kind of isolated,” explained Chavez. “When we travel to tournaments, it gives us an opportunity to play against teams from other areas of the state that we normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to play against.”
In December, the Tigers played in the Capital City Invitational and finished third in that tournament. Over the holiday break, Taos played at the Stu Clark in Las Vegas where they finished second. In early January, Taos took part in the Ruidoso Shootout for three games in three days. They followed up their trip to Ruidoso with a first-place finish at the Hope Christian Invitational, beating St. Pius X-Artesia-and Hope Christian. “We feel like that tournament at Hope is a good springboard for our district season,” said Chavez. “It’s not always about winning the tournament, but about the quality of play we get to face.”
Taos is currently ranked #2 in the latest MaxPreps Class 4A poll, behind top-ranked Highland. Chavez said he embraces the high ranking and target. “At practice, we talk about the word ‘pressure’ and that’s a good word to have around,” he said. “We want that word around because it means we’re doing some good things. If you want to compete with some of the best teams in the state, there’s always going to be that pressure.”
Chavez said the 16-4 record doesn’t catch him by surprise. “We had a really good summer, following a really good spring season,” he said. “So, there was some momentum, and we went into four different camps this summer against quality competition, and we felt that coming into this year we would be positioned well to hopefully make a run.”
Taos hasn’t reached the state tournament final since 1998. “We have talked about that,” said their head coach. “We would like to honor those Taos teams of the past and we’re looking to make our own mark on Taos basketball history.”
Taos has an experienced roster with eight seniors, most of them at the guard position. Their two top post players are juniors, starter Daemon Ely (6’7”) and Xavier Duke (6’5”) coming off the bench. The Tigers are at Pojoaque Tuesday night.