Demons struggle to matchup with Rio Rancho, beaten 75-64
There is no 17-point shot in basketball, but the Santa Fe High Demons kept looking for it on Friday night.
It was only the biggest game of the season for Santa Fe High (so far) against the biggest team they have faced (so far), and plenty of star power in Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium, to boot. With University of New Mexico basketball head coach Paul Weir and several Lobos players sitting under the east basket, presumably watching 6-foot-6 Santa Fe High sophomore Fedonta “J.B.” White, plus 6-foot-4 Rio Rancho senior guard David Patterson, they saw Santa Fe High struggle to chip away at the largest margin it faced this year.
Rio Rancho used its size, Patterson’s 27 points and plenty of guile to outlast the Demons, 75-64. It was the first loss for Santa Fe High after a 7-0 start. The Demons received a lesson that they will have to learn if they want to make the season special — how to play big when the Demons are not.
The Rams (3-1) were bigger and stronger at just about every position, and they flexed their muscles at key times. They only made three 3-pointers, but pounded the interior for 56 points as they went 31-for-53. Rio Rancho was a white-hot 17-for-24 from the field in the second half that proved to be too much for the Demons.
“We just had to keep going inside,” Patterson said. “Take advantage of [the Rams’ size], because we knew they couldn’t do much.”
Santa Fe High kept firing from the perimeter, going a pedestrian 7-for-28 on 3s as it kept trying to get back into the game. The Demons fell behind 66-49 in the fourth quarter when Patterson scored on a breakaway layup with 5:40 left.
“We kinda let the lead get to us, like we got to come back in one possession,” Demons sophomore guard Cruz Martinez said. “We stopped moving the ball. … I mean, there’s no 17-point shot.”
Patterson’s make finished off the 17-point run that was a response to a 6-0 spurt by the Demons, who were without White after he picked up a personal foul and a technical foul — in front of Weir and the Lobos, no less. White hacked Rams wing Owen Olney at the 4:41 mark of the third quarter. They were his third and fourth fouls, so White sat the rest of the quarter. Rio Rancho scored five points off the infractions, turning a 42-41 lead into 47-41.
Santa Fe High scored eight of the next 10 points and tied it at 49-all on Dove Hernandez’s steal and layup with 2:13 left in the third, but the Rams turned methodical. They hit seven straight buckets, and Patterson scored nine of Rio Rancho’s 17 points in that span. His layup that finished the run came as White challenged him at the rim, but he flipped his shot off the glass a tick before White could reach it.
“We just had to keep attacking,” Patterson said. “He had four fouls in the fourth quarter, so we had to keep attacking him.”
Cole said the issue during the dry spell was that ball movement stopped, leaving players firing up contested shots or long-range attempts trying to gain momentum. The Demons had a chance to get back into the game after the run, forcing turnovers on three straight Rio Rancho possessions. All they could get was a corner 3 from Jordan Campos at the 3:58 mark to get within 66-56.
It wasn’t until White’s layup with 45 seconds left that Santa Fe High cut the deficit to single digits, at 73-64. But it was far too late.
“We just hadn’t been in that situation before,” Cole said. “Being down 13, I’ve been in that position before. You feel like you want to do something for your team, and you just force something that doesn’t necessarily need to be forced.”
The Demons have a couple of days to go over film and make the appropriate adjustments before they face another tough test Tuesday against Los Lunas. The 4A school beat Rio Rancho to win Artesia’s City of Champions Tournament on Dec. 8.
On top of that, Los Lunas brings a tough, physical, athletic team that is similar to the Rams.
“We stacked up our schedule,” Cole said. “We got a tough schedule, and we did that for a reason. We want to play in these games and we want to grow from them, whether we win or not. That way, we can be the best team we can possibly be at the end of the season.”
The best team learns that large deficits are overcome in small bites.