By Arnie Leshin
Yes there will be a 6th game, but Capital didn’t have it easy getting there, as upset-minded Albuquerque High gave the Jaguars all they could handle before a better second half brought the home team a 65-56 triumph that will have it playing Santa Fe High for the sixth time for the District 5-5A tournament championships Saturday night at Toby Roybal Memorial gymnasium.
But the Bulldogs, seeing their last chance at perhaps getting into the 16-school field of the 5A state tournament, made a game before winding up their season at 12-15 while Capital improved to 24-4, with three of the losses against the Demons, But for awhile, it was tough for the Jags to get past the challenge of the visitors.
They did lead 19-13 after one quarter, but the second quarter they could score only seven points and trailed 27-26 at halftime. Doing most of the damage for the Bulldogs was senior Jude Tapia, who tallied 11 points in the half, but was held to only three more when the Jaguars’ defense concentrated more on him, one of the top scorers in the district.
The third was when Capital moved ahead again, outscoring Albuquerque High, 18-10, to lead 44-39 heading into the final quarter. But with Tapia held in check, his junior teammate Lamar Rogers took over with a display of quickness, steals, and clutch baskets. He finished with 22 points, the same as Jaguars’ senior Antonio “TJ” Sanchez, the program’s career scoring leader.
Although the Bulldogs had the edge, 21-19, in the final eight minutes, Capital maintained its advantage, moving ahead twice by 10 points, but Albuquerque High wasn’t hanging it up yet, and a second 3 from Tapia cut the lead to 52-45 with three minutes remaining. But Capital senior Chano Herrera, an excellent foul shooting, converted 4 of 4 to up the lead to 59-50, and in the final minute Sanchez made both his charity tosses and it was now 65-56 and it was time to think ahead to the seeing the cross town rivals once again.
Herrera and senior Brandon Saiz added a dozen points each, senior Angel Parra tossed in nine and senior Seth Arroyos scored eight. The Jaguars were on target at the free throw line, making good on 17 of 20, with 7 of 9 over the final eight minutes.
It probably was an ugly win, but a win is a win. It was a challenge that Capital handled well when it counted. But it was also a tough test, that at one time had the Bulldogs make an 8-0 run that trimmed the gap to two points, and Capital head coach Ben Gomez called a time out. But it was a good time out, for his Jaguars maintained their lead, although with three minutes to go, Tapia tossed in his second three to cut the deficit from 52-42 to 52-45, and a steal and a layup by Rogers made it 52-47.
But then came the foul shooting of Herrera, only three turnovers in the second half, and Sanchez’ two freebies upped the lead to 63-54, and offset another steal and bucket from Rogers.
Now comes number 6. In the previous five, Santa Fe High disposed of Capital, 48-45, in overtime of the Bobby Rodriguez/Capital City tournament at Toby Roybal Memorial gym, but in the Al Armendariz tournament played at Capital, it was a 53-50 win for the home team. Then they again split home and away, with the Demons winning 53-48, at home, followed by the Jaguars home victory, 69-62.
Both finished the regular season at 9-1in district to set up the one-game playoff at a packed house at Santa Fe Indian School’s Pueblo Pavilion, and won by Santa Fe High, 67-62, with it pulling away in the final minutes.
In the District 2-3A playoff at St. Michael’s Friday night, the Dons came from behind to carry off a 66-57 win, with WLV, the Horsemen, Robertson, and maybe Indian School, runner-up in the state finals last year, a possibility.
In girls play, Pecos’ defending state 2A champions lost for the second time at Texico, with the 56-43 defeat bringing the Wolverines the district tournament title, but both will be in the state tournament, with Clayton probably joining them.
In the 2-4A district tournament final at Espanola Valley, the Sundevils sent 2nd-seeded Pojoaque Valley away with a 57-51 triumph, and at Mescalero Apache, head coach Elmer Chavez’ team, runner-up last season at state, avenged an early loss to district rival Lordsburg for the second time via a 59-43 setback for the district tournament title.
In 5-5A Friday night, Albuquerque Manzano turned back Albuquerque High, 56-50, and will play at district winner Rio Rancho Sandia for the district tournament championship.