Albuquerque High beats Santa Fe High, 63-58
Welcome to your nightmare, District 5-5A — Albuquerque High sits atop the district standings.
Technically, the Bulldogs share the district lead with Albuquerque Manzano, but they got to this point by beating former-co-leader Santa Fe High, 63-58, in Bulldog City on Friday night. Coupled with the Monarchs’ 60-57 win over Albuquerque Sandia, the two teams sit at 4-2 in 5-5A — a game ahead of Santa Fe High and Albuquerque Rio Grande, which beat Capital 68-56 on Friday.
Bulldogs head coach Ron Garcia acknowledged that his team’s performance in district play after a 2-11 start could have a significant impact on the selection and seeding of teams for the Class 5A State Tournament if Albuquerque High (7-13 overall, 4-2 in 5-5A) wins the regular-season title.
“We could screw up the whole bracket,” Garcia said with a laugh. “It could screw up a lot of stuff because of our record, but we haven’t lost to shabby teams. We’ve lost to [Rio Rancho] Cleveland, La Cueva, Eldorado twice — and we had them twice. Our biggest loss was to Santa Fe [a 75-52 defeat on Jan. 23].”
The Bulldogs can say their biggest win is over Santa Fe High.
Albuquerque High scored the last six points with 49 seconds left to erase a 58-57 Demons advantage.
The knockout punch was delivered by someone other than Bulldogs junior Jude Tapia, the team’s leading scorer, who had 25 points.
It was Devin Serrano who nailed a sideline 3-pointer with 29.8 seconds left for a 60-58 lead.
“They were keying on Jude, and we like to take advantage of that sometimes,” Serrano said. “So, my guy went to him, and Jude found the open man like he always does.”
It was the biggest bucket in a 13-point fourth quarter by the senior, as he and Tapia combined for 22 of the Bulldogs’ 24 points in the quarter.
“That 3 was huge, obviously, but the free throw he made after was bigger because it gave us a cushion,” Garcia said. “He’s doing what a captain should do at Albuquerque High. The thing that we stress at Albuquerque High is that nobody plays harder than us. If they do, they got to match our effort.”
Serrano’s free throw capped the scoring and came after the Demons (16-6, 3-3) missed a chance to retake the lead.
As they looked for a good shot, one come to fruition with Cody Garcia all alone on the right wing. But the ball never made it to him, as Antonio Lovato took a 16-foot jumper with less than
10 seconds left that drew iron and Tapia grabbed the rebound. He raced downcourt, only to be knocked down by Santa Fe High forward Carlos Dassaro with 5.3 seconds left.
The referees called an intentional foul, and Tapia hit both freebies for a 62-58 lead. Serrano made the first of two free throws, and the Demons missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer.
“I don’t think we took the best shot there at the end,” Santa Fe High head coach Zack Cole said. “But therse guys are trying to make things happen. It’s just a culmination of things that we didn’t do throughout the course of the game. There wasn’t one particular moment down the stretch. We had chances, and we couldn’t make that run we typically make.”
The typical Demons run usually involves 3s, but it didn’t happen this time. Santa Fe High found itself down 23-10 midway through the second quarter, thanks to a 1-for-11 effort from beyond the arc.
Cole instructed his team to try working in the paint instead.
The Demons scored the last seven points of the second quarter to get within 26-24, but it was the longest run of the game for them.
They didn’t take the lead until Cruz Martinez drained a three from the top of the key for a 35-33 lead with 3:36 left in the third.
When Martinez scored on a breakaway shot off the glass with 41 seconds left in the quarter, Santa Fe High had its biggest lead at 39-36. After that, it was a tug-of-war, as the teams exchanged the lead six times in the fourth quarter. The Demons took the lead for the last time on Christian Kavanaugh’s free throw with 49 seconds left that broke a 57-all tie.
While the win over the Demons was huge, Garcia admitted the rash of injuries to their interior players — three are out with injuries, and two might be season-ending to Anthony Sisneros and Fedonta “J.B.” White — they have suffered in the last month changed the district narrative.
“They’re a good basketball team, but they’re short-handed,” Garcia said. “They are a whole different team with size. They’ve knocked off Cleveland, Los Lunas, Roswell, everybody when they’re full strength. We were lucky to catch them at this time, but we’re going to enjoy this as long as we can.”
Los Alamos 55, Moriarty 42
Speaking of enjoying the moment for as long as they can, the Lady Hilltoppers (11-12 overall) improved to 5-0 in 2-4A by playing a better fourth quarter against the Lady Pintos (10-13, 1-4) than they did in a 62-54 overtime win in Griffith Gymnasium on Jan. 22.
Los Alamos led 42-32 in the final 8 minutes, took care of the ball and kept Moriarty’s perimeter shooters in check.
“The last time we played them, they hit five 3s in the second half, and they outscored us 18-9 in the fourth,” Los Alamos head coach Lanse Carter said. “This time, we did a better job taking care of the ball, knowing when to penetrate [the paint] and when to pass and when not to pass. When we did pass the ball, we did a good job of meeting the ball.”
Becca Green led the Lady Hilltoppers with 14 points, while guards Alex Calderon and Jenee Montoya each had 11.