Second-seeded Capital High meets with top-seed Roswell in Saturday afternoon's boy's state 5A basketball tournament championship at the WisePies Arena, aka the UNM Pit
Tip-off slated for 2 p.m. as Jaguars go for first title since
2004 and tournament-tested Coyotes for ninth overall
By ARNIE LESHIN
Capital High's boys have a choice, either get away to a good start, make some free throws and control the pace, or once again get involved in a tight game and win it with more heroics in the final minutes or the final seconds when the state 5A basketball final is played Saturday at the WisePies Arena, aka the UNM Pit.
No doubt the 2nd seeded Jaguars (25-5) would prefer the former after squeaking past 7th seeded Alamagordo, 48-45, in the quarterfinals on sophomore Matt Smith's long 3-pointer in the final seconds, then nipping 6th seeded Los Lunas, 40-37, in the semifinals on more Smith heroics, this time back-to-back 3s in the final minute to go with clutch foul shooting.
Even the first round win over 15th seeded Gallup at home became a late struggle after Gallup closed a big deficit in the final minutes, only to have Capital survive, 54-38, on a closing run.
Now it's No. 2 versus No. 1 Roswell (24-4), which cut short a second-straight final for District 2 by rolling over surprising 13th seeded Albuquerque Del Norte, 77-46, which eliminated defending champion Espanola Valley on the road in the opening round.
Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m.
While the Jags have won but one state championship, in 4A in 2004 over Deming, they have also lost in four other finals, the last a tense 36-34 setback to district rival Espanola Valley last year. Then in 2007 to Albuquerque St. Pius X, and the other in 2005 to Deming.
The Coyotes, however, go way back in winning state eight times while losing twice. How far back? Try its first 91 years ago in 1926, followed up with another the next year. Its last was in 2014 when it defeated Los Lunas, and also hoisted the blue trophy in 2010, 2009, 1964, 1963, 1952, and the initial two.
But this the first time that Capital and Roswell have matched up in the final. In the first round and quarterfinals, Roswell had problems getting 16th seed Bloomfield, 71-65, and then 81-80 over 9th seeded Kirtland Central. No trouble though in handling the challenge of Del Norte.
But Jaguars' head coach Benny Gomez has a knack of getting his teams in contention, making it to the quarters, semis and finals. Now they have to come through against a Roswell team that has won 11 in a row. Prior to that, it had win skeins of four and six.
The Coyotes, who won District 4 at 7-0, has only three seniors, but two of them, 6-foot-2 wing Chris Mesquita, and 6-foot guard Garrett Smothermon, are two of the key ingredients. Mesquita and 6-7 junior post Logan Eaker are the inside strength and Smothermon runs the offense.
They defeated the top-seed in 6A, Onate, and lost to 4A second-seed Portales, which plays defending state champion Albuquerque Hope Christian in the noon title game Saturday.
But the Jaguars had to contend with Espanola Valley, splitting two of the four contests between them, including the regular-season playoff for first place, and then the district tournament final. They are usually outsized by most opponents, but have enough experience, balance and the desire that brings success.
The key players underneath are Smith and 6-1 senior Isaiah Brooks. The backcourt is run by 5-10 senior Jeremy Anaya and 5-8 junior Tyler Alarid, and they team well together. Both can hit the outside shots, play aggressive defense, and take care of the ball.
Gomez can also call on 5-10 senior guard Marcos Vargas, 6-1 freshman small forward Seth Arroyos, 6-0 junior small forward Aaron Garcia, and junior guard Marcos Valenzuela.
One hundred and 55 high schools in the state and a dozen playing for state boy's hoops championships.
In the other boy's title contests, 6A has 12th seeded Albuquerque Volcano Vista versus 2nd seeded Las Cruces. In 4A, it's Portales against district rival Hope Christian. In 3A, top-seed Pecos takes on 3rd seeded Santa Rosa. In 2A, it's 2nd seeded Lordsburg against 5th seeded Mesilla Valley Christian. And in 1A, 2nd seeded Melrose meets up with 5th seeded Springer.
The lone girl's final on Saturday matches up six-time defending champion, top seed Elida, versus 2nd seeded Melrose. The others will be played Friday.