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Boys basketball: Panthers defeat Jaguars in the jungle

Al Armendariz tournament round-robin basketball concludes with Pecos turning back host Capital and Santa Fe High holding off Grants at Capital High Saturday

Panthers slow down Jaguars and Demons win second in a row by taking the early lead and maintaining it

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

It figured to be a run-and-gun, fast-break, pressure defense game, instead it was Pecos slowing it down enough to turn back host Capital, 61-54, Saturday night in the round-robin conclusion of the annual Al Armendariz basketball tournament.

The Jaguars were riding a four-game win streak by putting their attack into full gear, wearing down opponents, and the Panthers’ defending state 3A championships uses the same format.

But Pecos (2-1) had the upper hand in a tournament in which it played two 5A schools in Capital and Grants, as well as 6A Santa Fe High. It applied various zone defenses, and after a back-and-forth lead change, the Panthers went into the final quarter with a 39-34 lead.

Sophomore Xavier Padilla of Pecos then upped the advantage to 41-34 with 7:13 remaining to put the finishing touches on his 24-point, 18-rebound performance. He led both teams in both departments and his head coach, Ira Harge, Jr., wasn’t surprised.

“Xavier is mature beyond his years,” said the coach. “Last year he went from 8th grade to varsity. I mean, that’s a big jump and he adjusted well to that. Now he is one of our key guys and he stepped up in a big game.”

As for the Jags, they never appeared to settle in after Pecos began the contest mixing in the occasional zone and full-court press. They missed 10 of their first 14 shots from the field, although they still led, 10-6, early on.

The Panthers helped out with four turnovers, but came together for a 25-23 lead at halftime.

But the difference was the 5-foot-10 Padilla. Not only did he score and rebound, but tracked down as many misses as he could, which did a lot for his team and its defense. He’s listed as a forward, but in truth, he can handle all three positions as he displayed this game.

Now they go their separate ways, the Panthers in quest of another state title and Capital hoping to better its second place finishes in the last two 5A championships.

In the other game, Santa Fe High held off Grants to gain a 66-63 triumph and advance to 3-2. The Demons were up 21-11 early in the second quarter and 35-26 at the half.

And in the fourth quarter, it was a 55-45 before the Pirates (2-3) made a run to cut into the lead. But they couldn’t get closer than the final score and Santa Fe High won its second in a row.

Senior Victor Salcido paved the way for the Demons with 20 points, junior

Antonio Lovato added 12 and 13 came from freshman Fedonta White, Jr.

“This is officially our first winning streak of the season,” said Santa Fe High head coach Zack Cole. “We’re trying to focus on the positive because we have a tough week ahead.”

The next stop for the Demons will be in playing host to the annual Capital City tournament that begins Thursday. Also in the field are Roswell, Capital, Hobbs, St. Michael’s, and Santa Fe Indian School.

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