Jaguars maul St. Michael’s
When Capital’s defense plays with the kind of fire and fury the way it did Thursday night in Ortiz Gym, it’s truly a thing of beauty.
The Jaguars (9-2) hammered visiting St. Michael’s, 56-23, in a nondistrict game that was essentially over by the end of the first quarter.
“You could just kind of tell it was going to be a game like this right from the start,” said Capital junior T.J. Sanchez. “Just the way we came out, the way were, you know, doing things whenever they tried to run a play or something.”
In other words, Capital’s anticipation on defense was more than enough to send the visiting Horsemen (7-5) spiraling almost as soon as the game began. They scored just one point in the first seven minutes and were shooting just 15 percent (3-for-20) at halftime.
Things got mildly better in the second half, but only because Capital coach Ben Gomez started emptying his bench and easing up on the defensive pressure.
That defensive pressure was executed to perfection early on as the Jaguars’ trapping press led to a number of bad passes and sloppy possessions for the Horsemen. They won the game’s opening tip and worked the ball around for more than a minute before getting off the first shot.
Once Capital got the ball, Brandon Saiz broke the scoreless tie just moments later with a reverse layup and, just like that, it was on. The lead grew to 4-1 on a Sanchez putback, 8-1 on an uncontested layup by Brandon Saiz and 12-3 on a Dominic Luna bucket in the low post.
It was 27-4 midway though the second quarter. It was a 30-point game at halftime and grew to as many as 37 less than three minutes into the second half.
Sanchez had 12 points, making him the game’s only player in double figures. He and virtually everyone else on the Capital roster did most of the damage at the offensive end by driving the ball straight down the lane on dribble drives from the top of the key.
The only 3-pointer of the game came in the first half when Elias Rodriguez answered a rare Horsemen bucket with a triple from the corner to make it 30-6. The Horsemen hit just one shot in the first 12:33 of the game, getting their second bucket when Devon Flores hit a runner off the glass from 10 feet. Rodriguez followed just 14 seconds later with his long-range bomb.
Afterward, St. Michael’s coach David Rodriguez took the blame. He said he’d get back to the basics and do some reflection on his own approach after watching his team turn it over just as many times (23) as it did put points on the scoreboard.
“We’re just not very tough with the ball,” he said. “We’re not very tough right now, period. I’ve always had teams that have had a lot of toughness, if anything, and right now this team is not showing that. So, I’ve got to find a way to bring it out of these kids because we’ve got good kids, we have good athletes, but we looked … we looked poorly coached.”
Freshman Lucas Coriz had a team-high eight points for the Horsemen. Six of those came in the second half after the Jags built a 35-point lead that kickstarted the mercy rule’s running clock. The third quarter flew by in just 12 minutes of real time and the fourth quarter became a revolving door of substitutes for both teams.
One of the bright spots for Sanchez was when he and two teammates rose up to challenge St. Michael’s Thomas Wood under the rim. Wood drew the foul and went to the line, but both he and Sanchez chirped at one another the entire time.
“We played on the same AAU team over the summer and we’re pretty good friends, I think,” Sanchez said. “But when we’re on the court it’s all business. He knows that. We’re having fun but out there it’s just competition.”
After a 6-1 start, St. Michael’s has lost four of its last five. Their current three-game skid has seen an average margin of defeat of 24 points. … The Horsemen are at Albuquerque Academy next week, then return home for their own Horsemen Shootout starting Jan. 10. … Capital has won five straight since falling to Roswell in the semifinals of the Bobby Rodriguez Capital City Tournament. Their average margin of victory on those games is 21.8 points. … The Jaguars travel to Rio Rancho on Saturday night to face the same Cleveland team rival Santa Fe High just beat on Thursday.