District 5A team previews
Santa Fe High Demons
2017-18 season: 12-16 overall, 4-6 in District 2-6A. Lost to Abq. Atrisco Heritage, 51-48, in the first round of the Class 6A State Tournament.
Head coach: Zack Cole (third year)
Key players: Fedonta “J.B.” White, So., forward, 6-foot-6; Antonio Lovato, Sr., guard, 5-9; Christian Kavanaugh, Sr., guard, 5-10; Cruz Martinez, So., guard, 5-9; Derrick Solano, Sr., wing, 5-11.
Forecast: It’s been 13 years since the Demons made a spirited run to the Class 5A semifinals, but this team has the talent to duplicate that feat. It starts with White, who already has an offer from the University of New Mexico in hand. He has size to disrupt things in the paint, but is fluid enough to handle the ball and attack from the wings. Lovato is the grizzled veteran of the group, who can handle the point and make big shots when needed. The only thing that might stop Santa Fe High is its lack of depth in the paint. Still, the Demons look like the team to beat in the district, and could be a sleeper team come the state tournament. ’
2017-18 record: 22-8 overall, 5-3 in District 2-5A. Lost to Artesia, 65-63, in the Class 5A quarterfinals.
Head coach: Ben Gomez (sixth year)
Key players: T.J. Sanchez, Jr., wing, 5-foot-9; Seth Arroyos, Jr., wing, 6-1; Brandon Saiz, Jr., wing, 5-10; Dominic Luna, So., forward, 6-0; Elias Rodriguez, Jr., guard, 5-10.
Forecast: The Jaguars haven’t played in the state’s biggest classification in 18 years, but they slide into a district that is competitive for them. It’s a junior-driven squad, led by Sanchez and Arroyos can slash and shooter, and Luna came on as a freshman to provide some muscle in the middle. There are some unproven juniors making the jump up from the junior varsity, and their development will be crucial in determining the Jaguars’ success this year. At the very least, Capital should finish in the top three in 5-5A. At best, they make the regular-season finale against Santa Fe High determine the district champion.
Santa Fe High Demonettes
2017-18 record: 9-18 overall, 0-10 in District 2-5A.
Head coach: Nate Morris (first year)
Key players: Taylor Salazar, Sr., wing, 5-foot-7; Janaye Leyba, Sr., guard, 5-5; Amber Lucero, Sr., post, 5-11; Heavan Martinez, So., guard, 5-4.
Forecast: Morris has a big challenge in front of him, with a young, inexperienced team learning to play at the 5A level with his best player (Salazar) returning from a torn ACL. When Salazar is on, she can carry a team with her shooting and scoring prowess. Martinez is young, but she is the Demonettes’ best ball handler and can shoot, to boot. Lucero has size, but she can be foul-prone at time. Morris wants to instill an aggressive, pressing team that can wear teams down with its relentlessness. It could produce a few wins, but this is a foundation-building year for Santa Fe High.
Capital Lady Jaguars
2017-18 record: 14-15 overall, 5-3 in District 2-5A. Lost to Gallup, 79-49, in the opening round of the Class 5A State Tournament.
Head coach: Darren Casados (second year)
Key players: Kyannah Cole, Sr., wing, 5-foot-8; Miranda Cortez, Sr., guard, 5-2; Jaci Cole, Sr., wing, 5-6; Ethena Silva, So., post, 5-11; Heaven Arciniega, Jr., wing, 5-7.
Forecast: The Lady Jaguars made significant strides, competing for a district title before injuries and an inconsistent offense hurt them down the stretch. Kyannah Cole missed the last six games of the season with a PCL injury, but returns to give Capital its leading scorer back. Cortez is the steady point guard, while Jaci Cole comes in after transferring from Española Valley last year with an ability to knock down shots and give the team another scoring threat. If the Lady Jaguars can fix their scoring woes, they might contend in the district because their defense will keep them in games.