By Arnie Leshin
Doesn’t matter how many players head coach Benny Gomez loses, his Capital boys basketball program is always right up there.
Then there’s Santa Fe High, ranked No. 4 in 5A, that proved once again it’s here to stay in turning back previously unbeaten Rio Rancho Cleveland, 63-62, at Toby Roybal Memorial gymnasium Thursday night in non district play, but an important one for the Demons (12-2). The Storm had been ranked second in 5A.
Meanwhile, at the Capital court, the Jaguars were a rude host to cross-town rival St. Michael’s as they took a quick lead and went on to dominating the outplayed Horsemen, 56-23, in a non district contest. Fortunately for 3A St. Michael’s it won’t see the 5A Jags again this season.
While Santa Fe High impressed with another positive result in dropping the top-ranked Storm to 10-1, the game across town was a good one for Capital, and one that the Horsemen would like to forget as they prepare for district play and try to improve their 7-5 overall record following a short win streak.
Capital (9-2) was off and running, playing its usual aggressive defense that brought numerous Horsemen turnovers, and this one was never in doubt. The home team held the visitors to only one point in the first seven minutes, and to 15 percent shooting (3-for-20) when halftime arrived.
The Jaguars scored first, led 4-1, increased it to 8-1 and 12-3, and midway through the second quarter, were up 27-4, and upped it to 30 points at the half. From there Gomez began to empty his bench, and in the third quarter the running clock made for an earlier ending. Junior T.J. Sanchez of Capital put in a dozen points and was the only player in double figures.
Santa Fe High continued to give notice that it is among the best in the state, with its lone losses coming against Rio Rancho High at home, and at Los Lunas in its tournament final.
The Demons had the biggest lead at 41-27, but the Storm bounced back to cut the gap to 43-37. After the visitors got to within two, Demons’ head coach Zack Cole went to his bench and Derek Solano responded with a trio of 3s and finished up with 11 points.
But it was a chase to the finish as Cleveland fell behind by six but quickly trimmed it to 58-56. But when Demons’ 6-foot-6 sophomore Fedonta “J.B” White came up with a 3 against an aggressive defender from the corner, it was now 61-56. And with Santa Fe High playing its usual unselfish game, it was a tight finish that belonged to it.
In the annual Northern New Mexico Rio Grande tournament up at Pojoaque Valley, Pecos, which won the recent tournament at the same site, advanced to the Friday semifinals against Mora after handily Penasco, 86-13, while Mora topped Escalante, 51-46, in the closest game of the day.
The two-time defending state champion Panthers are now 10-2 and Penasco fell to 2-7. Mora, now all even at 6-6, knocked Escalante down to 4-7.
In the other quarterfinals, Dulce (5-2) disposed of Questa, 53-16, and now face Espanola McCurdy (8-1), which rolled over Mesa Vista, 73-41.