It’s a simple one, he says.
Follow it and a team will be successful. Don’t, and a team might as well get its tickets to the State Basketball Championships now because there’s no way it will get there by qualifying.
“You can’t question yourself as a team, not right now,” said the Santa Fe High head boys basketball coach. “When you start questioning each other as a team, especially doubting your own effort, you’re going to lose games. You do that in district and you’ll get left behind.”
For Rodriguez, getting his team to believe starts Wednesday when the Demons open District 2AAAA play at Española Valley.
Most teams around the state will launch into district play this week, including the vast majority of teams in the big-school classifications of AAA, AAAA and AAAAA.
Boys games to watch
The fun has already started for a number of smaller schools, but the party really begins Wednesday when Rodriguez’s Demons visit Española Valley and Bernalillo travels to Los Alamos in 2AAAA.
A look at the nondistrict standings suggests the team to beat is Capital (13-2), followed by Española Valley (13-5), Bernalillo (11-6) and Santa Fe High (8-9).
The Jaguars will be the last team in that group to open, doing so only after games against Albuquerque Academy and the suddenly resurgent St. Michael’s Horsemen.
Capital hosts Española Valley on Saturday.
If the Demons are to make a run, Rodriguez knows his club needs to show the kind of attitude it did in a recent win against Valencia.
“We showed the kind of effort I was looking for just in the nick of time,” he said. “Whoever shows up in our district is going to have a chance. The top four teams are good. It all comes down to believing and showing the effort.”
The 5AAA slate doesn’t begin until the week after the Super Bowl as the four-team district of private school powers St. Michael’s, Albuquerque Hope Christian and Albuquerque Sandia Prep still has two weeks of nondistrict games remaining.
The Horsemen (10-6) have won five straight, but have tough games against Pojoaque Valley (Tuesday), Capital, Albuquerque St. Pius X and Taos before hosting Hope on Feb. 7.
The 2AAA schedule begins in style Thursday as the two teams who have shown the most consistency square off on opening night. Taos (11-6) visits Pojoaque Valley (9-6).
Of all the teams in AAA, perhaps no team is more inconsistent than Taos: Losses to winless Los Alamos and by 20 to Laguna-Acoma; wins against Española Valley, Portales and Santa Fe High.
In Class B, Santa Fe Waldorf plays its final nondistrict games later this week against Maxwell and defending state champion Wagon Mound. The Wolves (12-1) have won a school record 11 straight games.
“The way we’re playing, I have to be happy with it,” said Rob Clifford, Waldorf head coach. “I can’t imagine there’s been too many times where this school has won 11 games in a row, so what’s going on now is new to everybody I guess.”
Girls games to watch
All eyes will be on Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium on Tuesday as unbeaten Santa Fe High (16-0) — the only unbeaten girls team in the entire state, regardless of classification — hosts Española Valley (15-3) in the 2AAAA opener for both teams.
And what an opener it is.
It pits a Demonettes squad that has rolled to an average margin of victory of 33.3 points the last three games and had just two games all season decided by fewer than 10 points.
This promises to be the stiffest test to date for head coach Elmer Chavez’s young team. Ranked No. 1 in the latest Class AAAA poll, Santa Fe High is taking on a Lady Sundevils squad whose only losses are to defending AAAAA champ Volcano Vista and to current AAA No. 1 Santa Fe Indian School (they’ve lost two of three meetings this season).
“Some teams like to take time off right before districts and others might be better off getting right in there,” said Cindy Roybal, SFIS head coach. “This is when the whole thing comes together or it all falls apart. We’ll see.”
The Demonettes travel to Los Alamos (10-8) on Friday. The Lady Hilltoppers open their district slate on the road Tuesday at Bernalillo.