Capital High rolls over Espanola to claim the District 2-5A tournament and regular-season with a second half 50-35 victory
Santa Fe High now awaits the Sunday state tournament pairings after losing the 2-6A semifinals, 47-42, Friday night to visiting Albuquerque Sandia
By ARNIE LESHIN
Capital High's boys are not just hoping, but expecting a high seed after disposing of visiting District 2-5A rival Espanola Valley Friday night to own the regular-season and district tournament.
The Jaguars (22-5) broke open a tight game with a big second half in winning 50-35 for their fourth in a row and seventh in eight starts since the regular-season loss at the Sundevils.
It was their second straight over Espanola, following up last Monday's district playoff for first place at Los Alamos' court.
Currently ranked fourth in the 5A rankings, it is hoping for perhaps a top-three seed when the New Mexico Activities Association announces its state tournament pairings on Sunday.
The Sundevils (20-8) are ranked sixth. From the same district, Albuquerque Del Norte (13-14) owns the 13th rank and Los Alamos, also 13-14, is 14th.
For Santa Fe High, it now becomes frustrating after it dropped Friday night's 47-42 2-6A semifinals to visiting, surging Albuquerque Sandia, which finished fifth in the six-team district at 2-8 and now plays tonight at district winner Albuquerque Eldorado.
The Demons fell to 17-10 after claiming the runner-up spot and getting a bye all the way to this meeting with the Matadors, who are now 13-14 after turning in wins over Clovis and Albuquerque La Cueva. Unless they can upset the Eagles (19-5), they, too, will be watching the state pairings while currently ranked 14th.
Santa Fe High is in the 13th spot, two ahead of La Cueva (12-14). However it gets in, it will be an opening round on the road for the Demons.
In district finals tonight, streaking Pecos (24-1) is home to third-place Raton (12-15), which upset runner-up Desert Academy (15-11) in the semis. The top-ranked Panthers are heavy favorites to defeat the Tigers for the third time after dominating the regular-season contests.
As for the Wildcats, they still have hopes of getting to state. Presently, they are ranked 15th, with Espanola McCurdy (10-15) 14th.
Then there's 2-4A matching second-place West Las Vegas (17-8) at district winner Las Vegas Robertson (16-7). The Dons are ranked fifth, one place behind the Cardinals. After WLV had to forfeit two games each to St. Michael's and Robertson, this will be the first official test between the two.
St. Michael's, which finished third, is at 14-14 after losing in the semifinals at the Dons. The Horsemen are now 13th in the rankings, with Santa Fe Indian School, which lost in the 5-4A final to district champion Bernalillo (15-13) and were swept by the Spartans, 14th. Holding down the 8th spot is Pojoaque Valley (16-12).
But Capital is on a stretch run roll. It has now defeated Espanola back-to-back after losing both regular-season games. It was the second meeting between the two in five days, and the ninth in the past 13 months after the Sundevils edged the Jags in the state championship game.
Capital held a 7-6 lead after one quarter and upped it to 20-14 at halftime. The Jaguars never trailed after 6-foot-2 senior post Isaiah Brooks converted a pair of free throws to snap a 10-10 tie in the second quarter. Then, when Brooks came through with a 3-point play, the advantage became 25-16 in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Sundevils, who won the night before at home over Albuquerque Del Norte, were sloppy in committing seven turnovers in the third quarter, three of them leading to points for the home team as the Jags went on a 14-0 run.
Ice-cold Espanola then went about seven minutes without a point and fell behind by 21 points early in the final quarter, For Capital, 6-foot junior Aaron Garcia came away with the team-high 12 points after scoring the first four points of the contest. He fouled out in the fourth quarter, but by then his team was up 39-22.
Senior guard Jeremy Anaya and junior guard Tyler Alarid added 10 points each, Brooks scored nine and 6-4 sophomore Mat Smith eight. The Jaguars made 12-of-17 foul shots to 10-for-17 from the visitors.
After all was done, Capital received its medals for winning district.
Santa Fe High fell behind early as Sandia, which dropped 53-50 and 50-49 regular-season games to the Demons, scored the first six points, led 12-2, and never trailed as it was led by 6-3 senior post Tanner Sloan, who had the game-high 15 points.
At the half, the Matadors led 20-15, and were up 31-23 after three quarters. Santa Fe High got as close as 31-28 going into the fourth quarter, than cut the gap to two. But when it began putting in shots and running the court, Sloan and company just remained calm and in control.
Sloan provided the heroics in the closing minutes. After tossing in a 3 for a 41-34 lead, he scored and was fouled off a rebound. He made good on 5-of-6 free throws and brought down 11 rebounds.
After losing last Saturday to Eldorado to finish the regular season, the Demons again came up with poor shooting, with 15-for-45 from the floor and 2-for-10 from the foul line in the last quarter. Sandia, in turn, converted 6-of-10 over the same stretch. Against the Eagles, Santa Fe shot 12-for-52 and was 7-for-20 from the charity stripe.
This time, it was faced with 6-6 senior post Everett Robinson feeling ill and playing very little, and 6-1 senior forward Bailey Lozada-Cabbage fouling out with 4:52 to go.
Even when the Matadors missed their first eight shots late in the first half, the Demons couldn't close the gap because of poor shooting and being out rebounded because of Robinson being sidelines and Lozada-Cabbage getting into early foul trouble.