Final features Capital, Santa Fe High
It’s going to be a family affair Saturday.
The Al Armendariz Tournament boys championship will stay in the city limits, and its two public schools will hash out the details. Oh, and it will be Round 1 of at least three meetings between Capital and Santa Fe High this season, meaning Ben Gomez and son-in-law Zack Cole, the Santa Fe High head coach, will see a lot of each other on the hardwood.
Capital, the tournament host, beat Grants, 71-42, in the semifinal in Edward A. Ortiz Memorial Gymnasium on Friday night. In the opening semifinal, the Demons survived a tumultuous battle with Española Valley to breeze past the Sundevils, 82-66.
The championship game promises to be a fast-paced, high-energy game between the intracity rivals, which also find the teams as district rivals again after a four-year hiatus. Unlike the last district rivalry, when Santa Fe High came down to 4A, Capital finds itself at the big-school division for the first time since 1999-2000.
The Jaguars (2-0) are finding that they feel they have to prove themselves again, despite being one of the top programs the past four years.
“I think everybody thinks that, with us moving to 5A, we’re gonna get worked by everybody,” Capital junior guard T.J. Sanchez said. “we’re just going to keep on working and see where it gets us.”
Their first big test on that proving ground is against the Demons, which are trying to prove to the rest of 5A they are a team to watch. That adds another layer of intrigue to a rivalry that pits friends against friends because many of the players on both teams have played against or with one another since elementary school.
“We have a lot of friends that go to Capital,” sophomore forward J.B. White said. “We’re not going to have a problem with that. We’re just going to give the crowd the best game that we can.”
Both teams put on a show in their semifinal matchups, especially on the offensive end. Capital and Santa Fe High exhibited similar unselfish traits, as they often passed on open outside shots to move the ball around to find a better one — usually at the rim.
The Jaguars had three players reach double figures and 10 of 11 score. Junior guard Brandon Saiz led the way with 17 points that included 10 in the second quarter. He had six of Capital’s last nine points to build a 36-19 halftime lead that was never challenged.
Out of 31 field goals, the Jaguars had 23 inside the 3-point line and all but three were from inside 10 feet.
“The ball movement that we had is to make sure we get the ball inside,” sophomore Dominic Luna said. “That’s our first option, so we just move the ball until the guy is open in the paint.”
The Demons (2-0) can match Capital’s versatility, as they had four players reach double figures. They were led by White’s 23 points as he showed the ability to score in the paint and from the perimeter in hitting three 3-pointers. He also lifted his team during a crucial moment in the third quarter as Española cut a 46-33 halftime deficit to 49-45 on Brian Martinez’s 3 with 5:35 left. White responded with a three-point play off an offensive board with 4:19 left, then followed that 30 seconds later with a 3 from the left corner that gave the Demons a 55-45 lead with 3:49 left.
Not to be overshadowed was fellow sophomore, guard Cruz Martinez, who had eight of his 17 points during a crucial 12-3 run in the second quarter. That allowed Santa Fe High to up its lead to 41-29 on his free throws with 57.9 seconds left. That quarter ended with an exclamation point as White threw down a thunderous dunk for a 13-point lead.
However, it wasn’t the last fireworks before the teams headed to the locker room. Sundevils guard Zach Mascarenas, who was on the bench with four fouls, raced toward the Demons and tried to accost White. The two jawed at each other throughout the first half, and White declined to comment on the matter after the game.
Española head coach James Branch called it an unfortunate situation and wondered if the bad feelings would linger. He added, it was a disappointing situation considering the program was dedicating the season to 2018 graduate Cameron Martinez, who was killed in an October shooting.
“We dedicated a season to a young man who has all these intangibles,” Branch said as he held a mural dedicated to Martinez. “If you can’t put a check mark next to these intangibles, then you need to fix it real quick.”
In the consolation round:
Roswell Goddard 77, Jemez Valley 28
The Rockets (1-2) jumped out to a 48-19 lead lead at the half and cruised to the consolation championship to play Pecos at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Josh Silas led Goddard with 17 points as he nailed five threes. Pat Espinoza added 16 points.
Pecos 72, Pojoaque Valley 55
The Panthers pulled away from the Elks in the third quarter, using a 23-10 run to take a 56-37 lead and move on to the fifth-place game. Xavier Padilla scored all of his team-high 18 points in the first three quarters for Pecos (1-1), while Omar Dominguez added 10 and Ismael Villegas had 10. Pojoaque (1-2) had Jacen Lujan and Andrew Garcia each score 10 points.