By Arnie Leshin
The Capital High boys needed to nail down a win, and by handing visiting rival Santa Fe High Thursday night a 72-58 setback, they also created a five-way tie in District 5-5A.
Five schools in this district and they all stand at 2-2. The next stop for the Jaguars (14-5) is at Albuquerque Manzano Wednesday night, and the Demons (15-5) play the same night at home versus Albuquerque Rio Grande (6-11).
But first Ben Gomez’ team had to take care of immediate business, and it did so before a capacity crowd at Edward A. Ortiz Memorial gymnasium. Those that arrived late were shut out and missed the heroics of Capital’s 5-foot-9 junior A.J. Sanchez.
Sanchez had a red-hot shooting night at the right time, for his team, with but one senior and four talented juniors, had dropped two in a row, first at Albuquerque High, and then to Albuquerque Sandia in three overtimes at home.
The cross town rivals had met once before this season, with Santa Fe High (15-3) winning 64-62 in the Al Armendariz tournament played at Capital. They play again on Feb. 20 at the Demons’ court.
But this was Sanchez’ night. He scored a game-high 27 points, making good on 12-of-14 tries. He hit his first seven shots in the opening quarter, and this included a pair of baskets from 3-point land. The Jags also maintained command in that span behind him, knocking in 12-of-18 attempts to take a 27-11 lead on junior Chano Herrera’s breakaway layup in the final seconds.
This was a must win after the Bulldogs’ big final quarter sent Capital home with an 18-point loss, followed by the triple overtime against Sandia that had the Jaguars failing to convert late free throw attempts in the 1-point defeat.
As for the Demons, still without injured 6-6 sophomore Fedonta “JB” White and 6-2 junior Anthony Sisneros, both with knee injuries that left Zack Cole’s team with no one over 6-1, but a team that was extra tough with its overall shooting, especially from the outside.
But not on this night. In the first half, Santa Fe High could make only 10-of-25 attempts, and were outrebounded, 19-8. In all, the Jaguars brought down 32 boards to 18 for the visitors, which showed how much the Demons missed White and Sisneros.
But they did make their way into the game. They connected on 7 of their initial 9 3-point shots in the second quarter and got within 33-24 late in the first half, but the Jaguars pushed the advantage to 40-27 at the half behind Herrera, who came away with 15 points.
Then, when Sanchez made good on his third 3 with a little over a minute remaining in the third quarter, the margin was 55-39, and Santa Fe High never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way. This after the Demons made their way to within 46-39, halfway through the same quarter.
The rest of the way, Capital follows the Manzanocontest by hosting Albuquerque High, then hits the road to Sandia, stays home to face Manzano, and winds up at Santa Fe High.
As for the Demons, they go from the Rio Grande game to play at Albuquerque High, then are home to Sandia, at Manzano, home to the Jags, and then at the Ravens.
By then, don’t count on a 5-way tie.
Pecos’ boys’ back-to-back state champions opened District 7-2A, Thursday night against visitingSanta Rosa with a 61-48 triumph. The Panthers, 16-3 overall, raced to a 47-21 halftime lead, with Omar Dominguez scoring all of his 22 points in that span, and teammate Ismael Villegas adding 10 points.
The Lions (13-5) did cut into the gap in the third quarter, but still trailed 54-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the opening girl’s game of the doubleheader at Louis G. Sanchez Memorial gymnasium, the Pecos girls rolled over Santa Rosa, 59-28, to move to 17-4 overall and included a tennis term, “doughnut” by shutting out the Lions in the first quarter via a football score, 18-0.
Senior Brittany Martinez led the Panthers with 17 points and senior Cassie Muller scored 15.
Both the Pecos boys and girls head to district opponent Clayton in a Saturday doubleheader.