By Arnie Leshin
Bryan Mirabal, Michael Dominguez, Steven Lovato, Abel Lucero, Jeremy Lithgow were the starters, Chris Lemoruex, Kevin Urban, Benny Lopes and Erik Moulton were the reserves, and because of the New Mexico Activities Association’s announcement to have empty stands, only Mirabal is certain to be at UNM’s Dreamstyle Arena tonight.
Those were the members of Capital High’s only state championship won in 2004 over Deming, and Mirabal is presently an assistant coach under Benny Gomez, who was then serving his first season as head coach after Al Armendariz retired.
No fans in the stands couldn’t be avoided with the fear of spreading infections due to the nationwide threat brought by the globe-wide caronavirus.
Dominquez was one of the prime reasons that the Jaguars won this time after losing the previous year to the same Deming in the title game. He transferred from Espanola Valley to Capital and that brought a dynamic back court player who was familiar with the other Jaguars and was a sharpshooter who fit right in.
Down by a point to Deming with time running down, it was Dominguez who flung in a long range 3 to put Capital in front, and followed with a layup that was the clincher.
He can’t believe that 16 years have gone by since that heroic triumph, with Armendariz in the stands dressed as usual in a suit and tie.
Says Dominquez: “This team reminds me so much of our team. Benny as the coach, Bryan alongside him, and a bunch of talented seniors who play like we did, outside shooting, penetrating, aggressive defense, and the will to win.”
Last year, the Jaguars made a spirited run in the District 5 tournament and made the state tournament field, but injuries to juniors Antonio “TJ” Sanchez and Seth Arroyos hurt their chances and it was a quick exit.
Now they are healthy. Now they are playing their best ball, and at the right time.
They won their home opener of the tournament over Las Cruces Centennial with ease, then got past Albuquerque Eldorado in the quarters and Rio Rancho Cleveland in the semis. Both teams out sized Capital as most other teams did, but it responded with its balanced attack led by 5-foot-11 Sanchez, the program’s all-time leading career scorer that All-State Terence Mirabal was when he graduated in 2003.
Sanchez knows what lies ahead. So do seniors Chano Herrera, Brandon Saiz, Elias Rodriguez, and Arroyos. The lone non-senior starter is 5-10 junior Dominic Luna, and he, too, would love to hoist the championship trophy. It’s a team that plays like a team, one for all and all for one.
“I think of it this way,” says Sanchez. “This is definitely your last year, so what are you going to do with your last year.?”
Well, the seniors realize the sense of finality to the season and have kicked in a sense of urgency that brought the team to this point. They avenged the regular season setback at home to Cleveland when a 16-point lead disappeared in the fourth quarter. Now it’s a shot at leaving a legacy.
Yes, Las Cruces (28-3) is tall and taller. The Jags will be looking up at starters who stand 6-9, 6-6, 6-4, 6-1 and 6-0. But they did shrink Espanola and Cleveland down to size while taking care of business. Now they will take the court and the cast of the 2004 gang will have to resort to catching the 8 o’clock game on video, on the website or maybe even on the radio.
And for Bryan Mirabal and Coach Gomez, it’s sure to restore memories of 2004.