No problem for the 2nd seeded Capital High boys having to tip off at 8 a.m. against Alamagordo in Wednesday’s 5A state basketball quarterfinals at WisePies Arena, aka the UNM Pit
In 4A, 7th seed St. Michael’s takes on 2nd seed Portales at the Santa Ana Star Center (4:45 p.m.), in 3A, top-seed Pecos plays 8th seed Eunice at Rio Rancho High (7 p.m.)
By ARNIE LESHIN
Up in the morning, out on the job, that’s the boy’s basketball team of Capital High.It’s about 6 o’clock in the wee small hours of the morning when Benny Gomez’ Jaguars take the court. When the practices are over, they are a bit tired, but alert and ready for the remainder of the day.This is why Gomez, who coached Capital to its only state championship (then 4A) in 2004, got a chuckle when he learned his 2nd seeded team in 5A will tip-off at 8 a.m. in Wednesday’s quarterfinals game against 7th seeded Alamagordo at the WisePies Arena, aka the UNM Pit. “We are very comfortable with that early start,” he said following Saturday night’s 54-38 opening round win over visiting 15th seed Gallup. “That’s our usual practice time, but about two hours earlier.”
Alamagordo, in turn, is on an 8-game win streak under first-year head coach Brian Schock. The Tigers are 20-8 and had no problem finishing first in District 3, where the other three schools all finished under .500.
So after winning seven-straight versus the district, they won 60-50 at home over 10th seed Albuquerque St. Pius X in the opening round of state.
The last time Schock coached against Capital was in 2006, the first round of the state tournament, and his visiting Aztec Tigers were outplayed, dominated, and he didn’t take long to hustle the players and coaches into their bus.
Now he has the reigns of another Tiger squad having one of its finest seasons in years.
The program has had only five winning seasons since 2006, won its only three state titles under now St. Michael’s head coach Ron Geyer in 1991, ’92 and ’97. Geyer in fact went 68-12 in that span.
These Tigers have scored 1,832 points, the most in 5A. They have an experienced group with eight seniors and five juniors on the 14-man roster.
They are led by the lone sophomore, 6-foot-5 Rakim Stokes, who plays guard, forward, post. He is supported by 6-2 seniors, Dee Smith and Chamar Norman. The backcourt is run by 5-9 senior guards Jalen Bateman and Markel Duarte.
They opened the season at home with a 70-68 loss to top-seeded Las Cruces Onate. In district, they were no match for Deming, Santa Teresa and Chaparral.
But the Jaguars are hyped, no doubt on a mission after district rival and defending state champion Espanola Valley was eliminated in the first round by visiting district opponent Albuquerque Del Norte. They had gone five rounds versus the Sundevils last year and lost to them in the state final.
Capital has had a real fine first varsity season from 6-4 sophomore Matt Smith, and the same with 6-0 senior Isaiah Brooks. The guard play has been engineered by 5-9 senior Jeremy Anaya and 5-7 junior Tyler Alarid.
The bench has done its job with the play of 6-1 freshman forward Seth Arroyos, 5-10 senior wing Marcus Vargas, 6-foot senior wing Brandon Lucero, and 5-7 junior guard Marcus Valenzuela.
“We’re ready to go,” said Gomez, whose Jags also lost in the 2005 and 2007 4A finals.
It’s Capital in the morning and St. Michael’s and Pecos at night.
But those two will be at other sites. In 4A, the 7th seeded Horsemen (15-14) versus 2nd seeded Portales (23-4) in a scheduled 4:45 p.m. tip-off at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
In 3A, the top-seeded Panthers (26-1) take on 8th seeded Eunice (15-12) in a start slated for 7 p.m. at Rio Rancho High School.
There’s also the interesting 4A match-up of cross-town, district rivals Las Vegas Robertson (17-8), the 4th seed, and 5th seed West Las Vegas (19-8).
The Cardinals won the regular season in District 2 and the Dons defeated them in the district tournament final. This one is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. at the Santa Ana Star Center.
In their opening round contests at home, Robertson overwhelmed 13th seed Albuquerque Sandia Prep, 81-56, and WLV did the same with an 82-50 romp over 12th seed Ruidoso.
St. Michael’s, which lost to the Rams by five points in its round-robin tournament at Shelly-Perez gymnasium, is without 6-1 senior forward Luke Archuleta, the team’s leading scorer who broke a bone in his foot at a team practice last Tuesday.
But in the first round the Horsemen made it past 10th seeded Wingate, 59-48, after taking a 26-point lead at halftime and then holding off a late run by the visitors. As for Portales, it was a 74-57 win over 16th seeded Shiprock.
Pecos is chili-hot, having won 26 in a row following a loss to West Las
Vegas in the season opener. It had no problem with visiting, 16th seeded Tucumcari (72-46) in the first round, and is looking for its first state championship since 1967.
That’s a 50-year draught and head coach Ira Harge, Jr. is confident with this group. It can run the court as well as anyone, has decent size (four 6-footers), and is aggressive on defense to force turnovers. Eunice got past 8th seed Dexter, 51-41, in its opener at home.
A wake-up call for Capital followed by lunch, and lunch followed by game time for the others.