AP NEWS

Santa Fe High to play Manzano at Capital for district’s top seed

February 24, 2019

It took some negotiations, but Santa Fe High won’t have to travel far for the District 5-5A boys basketball playoff game against Albuquerque Manzano.

Larry Chavez, the athletic director for Santa Fe Public Schools, confirmed Saturday night that the playoff to determine the top seed for the district tournament is set for 7 p.m. Monday in Capital’s Edward A. Ortiz Memorial Gymnasium.

The winner will get to play on their homecourt and be the top seed for the 5-5A tournament, which begins Tuesday when both the boys and girls first-round games commence.

On Friday night, Chavez said the playoff had been tentatively scheduled for Tuesday night at Capital as a part of a doubleheader, with Capital’s opening-round game against Albuquerque Rio Grande to follow the Monarchs-Demons contest.

However, Manzano head coach Dominick Romero said in an Albuquerque Journal story on Saturday that no date had been set and his team was not about to travel to Santa Fe for the playoff.

The game was necessary after Santa Fe High beat Albuquerque Rio Grande 63-55 in the 5-5A regular season finale on Friday and Capital upset the Monarchs 50-44 at home to create a tie atop the 5-5A standings. The Demons and Manzano are tied at 6-4.

Chavez, though, said the athletic directors from the other district schools met in the fall to discuss rules and the selection process for all-district teams. One of the items discussed was how to determine the neutral site destination in the event of a playoff. The athletic directors agreed unanimously, Chavez said, to allow the team that held the head-to-head point differential or the highest ranking in MaxPreps.com’s Freeman rankings (if head-to-head did not work) to choose the neutral site.

Chavez said with four schools in Albuquerque and two in Santa Fe, the athletic directors agreed there was a sense of unfairness in a playoff that involved a team from each city.

Generally, tiebreaking games are held at a another district school, but sometimes teams will play at a nondistrict site that is more travel-friendly for both schools.

“Nobody is ever going to be happy in these situations,” Chavez said. “It is a difficult decision to make. Even if the game was played in Rio Rancho or Bernalillo, it’s a close proximity to Albuquerque. How would it look for them to travel 15 minutes down the road, when we have to go 40?

“I’m not saying it’s unfair, but it’s how the district is set up and how many teams are in the [Albuquerque] metro area and how many teams are in Santa Fe.”

Chavez added that he kept both Capital head coach Ben Gomez and Santa Fe High head coach Zack Cole abreast of the site scenarios.

A concession Chavez made was to move the game to Monday so that there wasn’t an overwhelming sense of Santa Fe fans trying to pack the gym with both schools playing at the same venue.

“It also frees up some of the gym space,” Chavez said. “We’ll be hosting at Capital on Monday at 7 p.m., and rather than playing back-to-back games on Tuesday, each boys program will be able to play on individual nights.”