Capital uses size, speed to defeat former district rival Española, 64-59
ESPAÑOLA — It’s still a rivalry.
It’s just different.
Capital and Española Valley (9-8) spent the previous 23 years creating one of the fiercest boys basketball rivalries in the state, thanks to their inclusion in the same district. Saturday, though, was the first test in new territory for both programs — and it’s still as intense as ever.
Just ask Capital sophomore Dominic Luna. The grandson of Capital head coach Ben Gomez took an elbow to the mouth from Española’s Jon Garcia as he drove to the basket during the first half of the Jaguars’ 64-59 win in Edward Medina Gymnasium. Luna ran off the court after the blow loosened three of his lower teeth.
And Luna was called for a reaching foul on the play.
Both teams played with the same ferocity as before, but the Jaguars (12-3) were just a little bit better down the stretch. They used their length and athleticism to block seven shots and affect several others — especially in the final minute. With Capital leading 61-59 with 38 seconds left, Sundevils senior post Justino Rascon came up with a steal in the backcourt and moved to the basket.
Jaguars junior wing T.J. Sanchez raced after Rascon and altered his layup attempt just enough for him to miss it. Elias Rodriguez grabbed the board for Capital and was fouled, allowing him to hit two free throws with 34.3 seconds left for a 63-59 advantage.
“The good thing about this team is that it’s a nice, athletic team,” Gomez said. “You can make up for mistakes when guys get open looks and layups. We can deflect the ball, tip the ball, make them feel a little bit of pressure so that they feel uncomfortable.”
Española assistant coach Brian Martinez compared Capital’s athleticism to Gallup, a team that beat the Sundevils last week on a buzzer-beater in their home opener.
“They’re quick,” Martinez said. “You look at Capital and Gallup, and they are two of the fastest teams we’ve played.”
Then there was the play of Capital junior Seth Arroyos in the second half. Saddled with foul trouble in the first half, Arroyos watched as his team trailed 31-28 at the half. Capital struggled to find the range on the offensive end to the tune of an 11-for-36 performance from the field.
Just before the second half, Arroyos asked his head coach, “What do I need to do not to pick up my third foul?”
The answer was “just play,” which he did with 23 second half points that accounted for all of his scoring. It was his 3-pointer with 5:47 left in the third quarter that tied the score at 35-all, and his two free throws with 4:17 left made it 39-37, Capital.
His second 3, from the left corner, handed the Jaguars a 44-41 lead that it never lost.
Arroyos made sure of that.
“I just played my game,” Arroyos said. “I got a lot of confidence from my team. I thank them for the confidence I get from them.”
Arroyos’ third and final 3 came at the 6:43 mark of the fourth and upped the margin to 53-46. A Luis Molina 3 cut the deficit to 53-49 for Española at the 5 minute mark, then senior wing Ryan Trujillo took over.
10 straight points as he attacked the basket for three layups with Capital defenders draped all over him, and four free throws, with the last two bringing Española within 61-59 with 1:05 left.
But he collected two fouls within 10 seconds to foul out, taking away the Sundevils’ best weapon.
Trujillo’s last foul set up the Sundevils for their game-tying opportunity. With the Jaguars at midcourt, Rascon got his hand on Rodriguez’s inbounds pass, then grabbed the ball after Molina and Sanchez swatted at it.
It took Sanchez’s hustle to prevent the basket.
But it took the history of a longstanding rivalry to make it matter that much.
In other games:
Monte del Sol 76, Desert Academy/Waldorf 43
This time, the Dragons (9-8) took the initiative at the start, building a 29-11 lead after a quarter against their District 2-2A foe in the seventh-place game of the Lions Classic in Santa Rosa.
The Wild Wolves (2-9) cut the lead to 35-26 at the half, but Monte del Sol raced away by outscoring them 41-17 the rest of the way.
Isaiah Salazar hit five 3-pointer on his way to a 19-point performance to lead the Dragons.
Peter Lujan and Kevin Enriquez each added 11 points, and Jonny Hodges had 10. Desert Academy/Waldorf was led by Liam Otero’s
Pecos 84, Tucumcari 45
The Panthers (14-3) continued their nondistrict onslaught, this time against the 3A Rattlers in Tucumcari.
Pecos scored at least 20 points in the first three quarter to build a 67-33 lead, and junior forward Xavier Padilla led the way with
23 points in that span. Omar Dominguez added 19 and Juan Varela had 12. Jesus Ramos led Tucumcari with 14 points.
Tucumcari 62, Pecos 37
The Lady Panthers finally found an opponent they couldn’t stop, as the Lady Rattlers became the first team to break the 50-point barrier against Pecos.
Tucumcari (13-4) used a 16-3 scoring run to end the first quarter and built a 20-7 lead. The Lady Rattlers made it 35-12 at the half of a nondistrict game.
“We played a good second half, but we were just too scared in the first half,” Pecos head coach Ron Drake said.
“It was pretty bad.”
Brittney Martinez led Pecos
(13-3) with 19 points.
Tucumcari’s duo of Ashley Shipley and Kalani French combined for 38 points, with French scoring 23 on the strength of four 3-pointers.