Demons fall in overtime, 65-54, to Los Lunas
Once again, the Santa Fe High Demons had to go small to try to win Saturday night.
Unfortunately, they didn’t meet the same result that they did last week against the Los Lunas Tigers.
Slowing down the game in the second half to take advantage of their size, the Tigers pounded away at Santa Fe High and withstood a fourth-quarter rally to win in overtime, 65-54, and secure the Village of Los Lunas Holiday Tournament title. The Demons fell to 11-2.
The Demons had to find a way to survive when 6-foot-6 post Fedonta “J.B.” White picked up his third and fourth fouls during the third quarter that proved to be a turning point.
With the score tied at 36-all and less than 4 minutes left in the third, the sequence that changed momentum began after Antonio Lovato drove the baseline. He lost the ball as he was raked across his right arm by Cody Vocu, and that led to a turnover. As the Tigers (9-2) held possession, White was called for his third foul when he and Tigers post A.J. Garcia collided in the paint, knocking the sophomore to the ground.
Officials then called a technical foul on Santa Fe High head coach Zack Cole as he argued with them.
As that was happening, White picked up a technical foul for abusive language. Cole later said the raw emotions of a physical game came into play.
“That’s where the emotions and the frustrations; he can’t allow it to overtake him,” Cole said. “He’s young and he’ll learn from that moment. It hurts when he’s out because he cleans up the glass for us and allows our guards to get out a do what we do, and that’s to get out in transition.”
It was no surprise that the Demons offense hiccuped in White’s absence. Flashback to Santa Fe High’s 49-42 win over Los Lunas in the same gym Dec. 18, and the Demons overcame his absence by pressure the Tigers guards. They hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter that built a 27-13 halftime lead.
In this game, the Demons could not hit a basket, missing five straight shots and turning the ball over during a 6:29 streak. Los Lunas used the cold spell to create a 10-2 scoring run and build a 44-36 lead. Darius Haywood scored on a layup off a Zanen Zeller pass from the top of the key with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t until Cruz Martinez scored on a bank shot in the paint with 6:35 left in the game that Santa Fe High finally hit a bucket. The Demons got hot again, hitting seven of their last eight shots to ignite a 16-8 spurt to force overtime. Martinez had nine points in that stretch, including a 16-foot jumper with 44 seconds left to tie the score at 52-all.
“We weren’t getting any stops on defense, so if we’re not going to do that, we have to keep up with them,” Martinez said. “So my mindset was to score in the fourth quarter.”
In the overtime, though, Los Lunas got the break just 54 seconds in when White was called for his fifth foul while trying to block Joe Dominguez. Dominguez hit a pair of free throws to break the tie, and he ended up hitting 9 of 10 in the overtime as he finished with 20 points.
“It hurts, because we work so hard [on the defensive end],” Cole said. “We’re not very big, and that’s not a big secret. The word is out, but our guys work hard.”
The Tigers hit 18 of 21 free throws, while Santa Fe High was just 6-for-8. Tthe Demons hit 20 straight free throws that started with their 14-for-14 performance in the fourth quarter against Phoenix (Ariz.) Central on Friday.
It ended when Derrick Solano missed a pair at 1:44 of overtime.