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St. Michael’s opens with early morning game; will play bigger schools

December 6, 2018

David Rodriguez says his

St. Michael’s Horsemen are a morning team.

That statement will be put to the test Thursday at his old digs.

Rodriguez, the Horsemen head boys basketball coach, is looking forward to a repeat of last year’s opening day opponent, the Roswell Coyotes, in the 58th annual Bobby Rodriguez Capital City Tournament in Santa Fe High’s Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium. It’s the start of three days of what Rodriguez expects will be Class 5A foes for his 3A program, which is considered one of the top teams in the division this year.

St. Michael’s will next face either Alamogordo or Capital. If the Horsemen win Thursday and Friday, the reward will likely be the host Demons, a program he coached from 1992-2002 and from 2010-16. While plenty of coaches would blanch at facing such a challenging side of the bracket,

Rodriguez points out it’s something that is out of his control.

The opponent, though, is another thing.

“I always felt like you didn’t want to play the weakest sister in the tournament, because it doesn’t do anything for your team,” Rodriguez said. “At the same time, you want to advance and you want to see the other two Santa Fe schools have a shot at advancing so you have a chance at making some money.”

And money is a big reason schools hold their own regular-season tournaments. It’s a great revenue generator, and the better matchups that happen in the afternoon and evening, the better attendance — ticket sales and concessions — will be. That means the local teams advancing as far as they can to set up ideal games.

A perfect example of that was the Santa Fe High-Capital matchup in the Al Armendariz Tournament on Dec. 1. Santa Fe Public Schools athletic director Larry Chavez said the game was a sellout and the stands were practically full by halftime of the girls championship game that featured Rio Rancho Cleveland and Roswell Goddard. He added that the third-place game, which was a Demonettes-Lady Jaguars tussle, was played at more than half of the capacity of Edward A. Ortiz Memorial Gymnasium.

“The competitiveness of those games, and the quality of teams has increased,” Chavez said. “That’s because there are a lot of teams who have high expectations for the season and their fans bases feed off of that.”

He said the Armendariz Tournament made about $15,000 this year, almost double what the tournament normally makes. Chavez added that the Rodriguez Tournament has previously raised about $12,000.

There will not be a lack of teams with great expectations at this weekend’s tournament.

The girls side has Portales, the reigning Class 4A champion, a pair of three 3A schools in Las Vegas Robertson and Santa Fe Indian School that are contenders, plus upstart teams in Capital, Santa Fe High and St. Michael’s that have played better than expected to start the year.

The Demons, Jaguars, Horsemen and the Braves harbor hopes of winning a boys district and/or state titles, and face strong challenges from southern schools Alamogordo and the Coyotes.

Chavez said the challenge is to create a bracket that is both fair, but entertaining for all three days, and he enlists the input from the Santa Fe High coaching staff as well as school administrators to formulate what he feels is a balanced bracket.

“A lot of factors go into bracketing,” Chavez said. “At the end of the day, we want a competitive tournament and we want teams to come back. If you just put the toughest teams in the first round, you can lose those teams down the line. So, different teams will be matched up with an opponent, and they might not like it. But it’s a very difficult decision and something we don’t take lightly when we make them.”

Rodriguez said he won’t complain about the road his team faces to get to the championship game because he sees quality games that will prepare his team for District 2-3A play and beyond. Plus, those teams should be contenders in their own districts, which will only enhance his team’s Freeman rankings that the New Mexico Activities Association uses to determine the selection and seeding of teams in each class.

“Roswell’s gonna win some games,” Rodriguez said. “Capital’s gonna win some games. Alamogordo’s gonna win some games. We look forward to it. We’re going there Thursday fighting like hell to get to a Friday afternoon game.”

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