Demons’ balanced attack smothers St. Michael’s, 80-63

December 22, 2018

J.B. who?

Yes, the Santa Fe High Demons love their 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Fedonta “J.B.” White, who is the talk of the town — if not the state.

This week, though, was about proving a point to the rest of the state: the Demons are not a one-player show. Three days after taking down Class 4A contender Los Lunas, Santa Fe High put another notch in its belt by beating 3A’s best the St. Michael’s Horsemen on Friday night.

Before a buzzing crowd estimated at 3,600 people, Santa Fe High put on a show with and without White, using a 19-0 run in the second quarter as the cornerstone for an 80-63 win in Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium. The win puts the Demons at 8-1 and showed they are capable of handling long stretches of playing time without White — their biggest and best front-court player.

Part of the concern came after a 75-64 loss at Rio Rancho, where it appeared the Rams’ size affected Santa Fe High, especially when White left the game with four fouls in the third quarter. Christian Kavanaugh, Santa Fe High’s senior guard who had a team-high 23 points with five 3-pointers, would like to remind New Mexico the team played without White for part of the summer camp circuit after he suffered a hand injury and went 12-1.

“He’s a good basketball player, and, of course, we need him,” Kavanaugh said. “But we have a team to where we can play without him. We work together, and it’s the same game we play with him as without him.”

With White, the Demons were a ferocious, pressing, 3-point shooting team that was a nightmare for the Horsemen, especially in the first half. St. Michael’s (6-2) committed 17 turnovers by halftime, and many of those came in the back court and midcourt.

The breaking point came during a 3-minute, 9-second stretch late in the second quarter. The Horsemen coughed the ball up five times and Santa Fe High knocked down four 3-pointers to key the 19-point spurt. It started with Cody Garcia’s 3 from the wing that gave the Demons a 22-20 lead with 4:37 left. St. Michael’s turned the ball over in its half of the floor on the ensuing possession, which turned into a Kavanaugh three from the wing, and the run was on.

“We had 17 turnovers at halftime and 28 total,” St. Michael’s head coach David Rodriguez said. “You’re not going to beat anybody like that because you’re eliminating your opportunities. Fifteen free throws is not going to beat anyone. We were our own worst enemy on that. When we took our time against the press, we got the ball down there but then we took some rushed shots.”

The window of opportunity opened up in the third quarter when White picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first 90 seconds with the score 47-27. Instead, the Demons scored seven of the next nine points, and when Jared Campos scored on a layup with 3:40 left, the lead was 54-29.

The mini-run mimicked Santa Fe High’s effort in Tuesday’s 49-42 win over Los Lunas. Santa Fe High pushed a five-point lead in the second quarter to 27-13 at the half. Part of the credit went to a stingy defense, but the Demons also hit three 3s in that stretch to help keep momentum.

Kavanaugh said the perimeter shot is a very important part of the team’s offense, but it’s more the quality of the shot than it is the quantity. Against Rio Rancho, the Demons were a paltry 7-for-28. They hit 13 3s against the Horsemen.

“We gotta have good shot selection,” Kavanaugh said. “We gotta know if it’s a good shot, or if we can get a better one. Move the ball around. Against Rio Rancho, it wasn’t our night. [Against St. Michael’s], we scored.”

If Santa Fe High can keep that in mind, playing without White won’t hurt as much.

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