By Arnie Leshin
Brandon Saiz to the rescue.
It was only one of those exciting buzzer shots, but this one ended the first half and brought visiting Capital its first lead since 8-7, and sent it to the locker room believing this was the spark it needed.
Saiz raced down court and just tossed up a shot as the buzzer sounded. It gave the Jaguars a 27-26 lead and they maintained it until the final buzzer of their 59-54 win over Santa Fe High at the Toby Roybal Memorial gymnasium before a huge loud turnout that decided the District 5-5A tournament champion.
It was also the sixth time this season that the cross town rivals matched up, and now it’s all even at 3-3 as they await the Sunday 6 p.m. state tournament 16-school fields and the seedings.
Tickets went on sale 5 o’clock at Santa Fe High, and once again it was a see-saw battle that brought three ties in the first quarter seven lead changes, all in the first half.
But Saiz, a 5-foot-7 senior guard, changed all that. His buzzer shot was the last lead-changer, there would be no more ties, and, just like that, the second half began with Saiz scoring the first six points with a pair of baskets and two free throws. This put Capital (25-4) ahead 33-26, and then came 5-11 senior Antonio “TJ” Sanchez, the Jaguars’ all-time career scoring leader that Terence Mirabal had been since 2003, and he followed with a steal, a layup, and it was smooth sailing for Capital as the lead grew to 39-30 on another 2-pointer by Saiz and a pair of buckets from 5-10junior Dominic Luna.
But the Demons (22-5) weren’t going away. Led by 6-6 junior Fedonta “JB” White and 6-2 sophomore Paul Lovato, they closed the gap to 45-41 on a 3 tossed in by 5-8 senior Jordan Campos that ended the third quarter.
White, the only one his team to shoot foul shots (made 5 of 6), started the final quarter with a pair of charity tosses that trimmed the deficit to 45-44, except that the Jags answered back on a basket by Luna and a 3-point play by 5-10 senior Elias Rodriguez.
White, who led his team with 19 points, wasn’t through yet, scoring a bucket, two free throws and another 2-pointer following a 3-point play by Capital’s 6-1 senior Seth Arroyos. so now it was 53-48 with the clock ticking down.
Then it was White again, scoring to cut the gap to 53-50. Then it was Saiz once more, as he converted a pair of freebies, but 6-0 Demon senior Carlos Dassaro brought the lead back to three points, 55-52, with a basket, and it wound down to Sanchez, the game high scorer with 22 points, getting the advantage back to 57-52, and again it was White making two foul shots and it was 57-54 , but time was running out when Arroyos stepped to the line to add two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining.
Buzzer-beater Saiz came away with 14 points, Arroyos added eight, Luna six, 6-4 senior Chano Herrera scored four, and Rodriguez three. For the Demons, it was a solid game from White as he kept his team in the game, while Lovato turned in 14 points, 5-8 junior Cruz Martinez six, and Campos and 6-foot senior Carlos Dassaro two each.
The three ties came at 2-2, 4-4 and 10-10, and Santa Fe High was up 16-14 at the end of one quarter, At halftime, Saiz gave his team a 27-26 lead. And after three quarters, the Jags were up 45-41. Free throws played a big part in this contest, with Capital making good on 12 of 15 attempts, and White tossing in 6 of 7. There were two 3s, one each from the Demons’ Martinez and the other by Campos.
Number 7? Well, just follow the bouncing ball, and if it occurs, there will be a load of Santa Fe fans making their way south to the University of New Mexico Dreamstyle Arena court.