By Arnie Leshin
Don’t count out the Capital boys. Yes, they’ve lost back-to-back District 5-5A games and are sitting in the basement with Albuquerque Sandia as the regular-season winds down.
But overall, Ben Gomez’ Jaguars are 14-7 and still are capable of winning the district tournament or even making it to the championship game. At 2-4 in district, they are still hopeful of putting together some wins. Under Gomez, the program has won one state title in 2004, and finished second four times, in 2005, 2007, 2016 and 2017.
They have made 17-straight appearances in the state tournament, As the 16th seed in 2005, they almost became the first to win an opening-round game with a 46-43 setback against top-seeded Las Cruces Centennial. And no matter how many players graduate, Gomez still gets it done with the lineup left to him.
It’s not the toughest 5A district, but it has balance, evidence of that when all six schools were tied at 3-3 last week. Currently, Santa Fe High is ninth in the rankings and two spots behind is Capital. First is unbeaten Las Cruces at 23-0.
The surprise team is first-place Albuquerque High, which recovered from a 0-7 start to land on top of the heap despite a 7-13 overall record, but after the dismal start, the Bulldogs have won seven of 20 in quest of making the state tournament, are deadlocked with Albuquerque Manzano at 4-2, and the Monarchs are 12-8 overall.
With all this Bulldog soaring, they are all the way back at 19th in the rankings, but if they win district, they get an automatic bid to the state tournament.
Santa Fe High is in a better position than cross town rival Capital, although it pieced together a 16-6 overall mark before losing 6-foot-6 sophomore Fedonta “JB” White and 6-2 junior Anthony Sisneros to knee injuries. Now it plays with a height disadvantage and relies on a aggressive defense and the ability to hit from outside.
The Demons are in a 3-3 third-place tie with Albuquerque Rio Grande, with Capital and Albuquerque Sandia a game behind them.
St. Michael’s, on the other hand, is the best team in District 2-3A, which has it at 6-0 and in first place, at 15-7 overall, and the rest of the schools trying to get over stay around .500. Santa Fe Indian School is a game behind at 5-1 with a loss to the Horsemen, and 12-9 overall.
In the overall state 3A rankings, St. Michael’s is third behind Hot Springs (18-4) and Navajo Prep(15-7)
Pecos, too, is cruising along and after its third straight state championship. It is 3-0 in District 7-2A, 19-3 overall, and pounded the Texico boys for the second time in two years. Last season, the Panthers handed the previously undefeated Wolverines an 18-point defeat in the state final, and Saturday they took to the road and dominated Texico by 29 points.
They have now won eight in a row after losing to Mora, and dropped second-ranked Texico to 19-4, after head coach Ira Hodge, Jr., again put together a talented group after losing four starters. His team is right behind 17-2 Newcomb for the top spot in the 2A rankings.
In 4A, Espanola Valley rests on top of District 2 at 5-0 in district and 14-8 overall. In the second spot is Taos at 14-7 overall and 3-1 in district. Below them are Pojoaque Valley, Los Alamos and Moriarty, but it appears to be a two-school advantage down the stretch. The Sundevils recently turned back Taos, 74-59.
In the overall 4A rankings, Los Lunas (19-3) is on top and Silver is 18-4, and Gallup is next at 17-5. The Sundevils are listed eighth.