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Santa Fe High Demons are in the finals!

Santa Fe High boys dream their way to Saturday night’s 5A state basketball championship game by overcoming one adversity after another and have earned all the kudos they deserve

The 5thseededDemons take on 6thseeded  Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage Academy in the finals

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

Dream on, Santa Fe High, your magical ride has taken you to the last stop in your quest to win the state 5A basketball championship after turning back top-seeded Albuquerque Volcano Vista, 55-52, late Thursday afternoon at UNM’s Dreamstyle Arena.

All that stands in your way is the 6th seeded Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage Academy (21-7), which went from a triumph over Rio Rancho High in the quarterfinals to Thursday night’s 62-59 success over Rio Rancho Cleveland.

And that’s who the Demons will line up against in Saturday night’s final scheduled for an 8 o’clock tip-off. And Kudos to them, they have earned it many times over, from an impressive start to the loss of 6-foot-6 standout sophomore Fedonta “JB” White, to the loss of 6-2 junior Anthony Sisneros two games later due to knee injuries.

At that point, Santa Fe High traveled the long road to non district opponent Clovis with a 13-3 record. After White and Sisneros, it was a roster that dropped to a height of 6-1 players and downward from there. And late in the first quarter, White went up for a rebound, landed on his right knee in a cry of pain, and was helped off the court and taken to the hospital. Next came Sisneros.

That was it, both were gone for the season. Now the Demons of head coach Zack Cole had to battle against taller teams and use their other weapons after being knocked down in size. No matter, this was a team with six seniors and a dream of winning state, so it turned to reserves for heroics and employed its outside shooting, aggressive defense, hustle for loose balls, and did what it took to win.

After the one-point loss at Clovis, the long ride home became a team matter, and the Demons were still living the dream. So they worked their way to a 12-4 finish, defeated Albuquerque Manzano in a 5-5A playoff for first place, received the 5thseed, and just kept dreaming.

The last time the boys had a team in the state final was in 1978 when Lenny Roybal was head coach and they went 28-2 and edged Albuquerque High, 50-47, for the title. In the years 1940, 41 and 58, they lost in the finals to Las Cruces, St. Michael’s and Hobbs, respectively.

Not they are back with the assistance of Coach Cole, who returned to Santa Fe at his wife’s request and traded in the California sidelines to taking over the Demons program. He has been a savior, a savvy coach who provides a super atmosphere and the never quit attitude.

Think of the disadvantage against the Hawks. They had 6-6 and 6-5 starters, an experienced lineup, but the Demons held their own, twice coming back from deficits before taking the lead at 48-47 on a 3 tossed in by 6-foot junior Carlos Dassaro. Before that, they had led 12-10 after one and down 25-19 at the half.

After a 33-33 tie, it was the Hawks maintaining small leads until Dassaro found the range, His team then missed some shots, but recovered by converting 9 of their 10 final free throws, four straight by 5-9 sophomore Cruz Martinez, and the Demons outscored Volcano Vista 22-14 in the final eight minutes, with the Hawks tossing in a 3 at the buzzer.

Senior guard Christian Kavanaugh was ill, showed up three minutes into the game and informed Cole he was much better and confirmed it with a report from the doctor.

Then there was SFHS principal Carl Marano, who is an alumni and who once coached the boy’s team. On the back of his t-shirt, it said “Our Time Now.” Just one more, Marano.

The Hawks finished at 22-4. Atrisco’s Jaguars are 21-7 and have a pair of 6-4 players, and a trio of 6-3s. But to Santa Fe High, it’s the bigger they are,

the harder they fall, and the Demons have certainly made their point. To them, dreams do matter.

 

One more, just one more dream to come true.

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