By Arnie Leshin
Is the rejuvenated Capital High girl’s basketball team testing the District 2-6A waters until Santa Fe High steps in?
The Jaguars are in 2-5A, but their next game is a non district test at Albuquerque Manzano Thursday night, and the Monarchs are in that 2-6A district, expect that district doesn’t look to be all that strong at this point, with Clovis (9-6) and Albuquerque Eldorado (8-4), and the Demonettes (9-7) above .500 and Manzano and Albuquerque Sandia below it.
And so Capital, which has settled in under new head coach Darren Casados, and has been a satisfying January so far, is now 8-8 and the first time since 2010 it is in the first month of the new year without a losing record. In 2010, the Jags defeated Silver, 53-46, on Jan. 15 to put their mark at 7-6.
Now, before it heads into its own district against Los Alamos (5-12), Espanola Valley (6-8) Albuquerque Del Norte (5-8) and Albuquerque Academy (3-11) Capital gets a test against 6A Manzano, which is 2-9 and on a nine-game losing skein although two of the setbacks have been by 2 and 3 points to Del Norte.
And it’s noticeable that the .500 Jaguars currently have the best record in their district.
Casados, a Capital High athlete/graduate who has been gaining a reputation as a basketball coach, has changed the attitude of the program that has been in a slump for years.
On Saturday, his team gets another test at 4A Las Vegas Robertson, which is ranked third in its class, and owns a 9-3 record. And when district play begins, the Jaguars might be the team to beat.
Tuesday night’s 60-56 overtime win over visiting Navajo Prep (6-6) brought more confidence. Now the Jaguars are winning close games by finding ways to win, by tuning in to what Casados has been tutoring, and have begun putting together all the key ingredients.
The shots have been falling, the rebounding has been improving, the turnovers are less, and the team has become optimistic.
“It proves that we’re getting somewhere,” said junior guard Miranda Cortez. “It’s just belief. We knew we could do this since I started at Capital when I was an eighth-grader. I knew we could do this, that we could make a change.”
But this contest was not going too well against the visiting Eagles. Navajo Prep scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to grab a 43-34 lead. But the Jaguars responded, setting up some pressure defense, getting the ball to leading scorer, senior Kayanna Cole, who tossed in a short jumper and made good on a pair of free throws.
Next, Cortez added a 3, and Audrey Gonzales converted two foul shots, as Capital turned in a 18-6 run to take the lead at 52-49 with 2:06 remaining.
“Coach has taught us to deal with pressure, he’s taught us to never look as you are down or give up,” Cortez said. “Always look at it as its zero to zero.”
Cortez and Cole had the team highs with 15 points apiece, and led the way to a 52-52 tie after regulation. Then Deanna Booker’s free throw with 49.4 left brought a 57-56 advantage and started a 4-0 run. What also helped was a switch to a 1-2-2 zone.
Along with being happy with the result, Casados also liked that his team didn’t let the recent 52-33 romp by Santa Fe High linger.
As for the rankings, Capital is not on the 5A list, but who knows what success will bring?
Santa Fe High has also recovered from a 0-3 start to bring its record to 9-7 under new head coach Cindy Roybal and doesn’t play again until Tuesday when it begins district play at Sandia. It has won four-straight, has won five of its last six starts and is 6-3 since that miserable start.
Five schools in girl’s play sport unblemished records. One is Mescalero Apache coached by Elmer Chavez, who coached Santa Fe High to the state 4A championship in 2012. The team is 14-0 and sits atop 2A.
Another is 6A Las Cruces, which is 16-0, in 3A, there’s Tucumcari with a 16-0 record, and in 4A, Moriarty is up there at 14-0. In the same class, New Mexico Military Institute is 2-0, which could mean it forfeited games, tossed in the gear, or whatever else has it playing so few contests, and being ranked above the Pintos.
Pecos (9-3) is up there in 3A with Texico, in 1A, Maxwell and Melrose are first and second, Logan is right behind Mescalero Apache in its class, and Portales is right behind NMMI and Moriarty in 4A. Los Lunas is on top 5A.