Española Beats Academy, Gets Redemption Against The Elks

by Staff Reporter / Jan 23, 2018 / comments
Española’s Zach Mascarenas goes in for a layup against Pojoaque. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española Beats Academy, Gets Redemption Against The Elks

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School boys basketball team bounced back from their first loss of the season with a key victory in their District 2-5A opener with a 73-50 victory over Albuquerque Academy Jan. 17 in Albuquerque. Facing local rival Pojoaque Valley High School Jan.19 at Pojoaque, the Sundevils decisively defeated the Elks 79-46 at Ben Lujan Gym in front of a big crowd of fans from both teams to avenge a loss to Pojoaque last season.

The Elks had defeated Española 51-49 last season at Española in the renewal of a rivalry that had been put on hiatus since 2004. This time the Sundevils left no doubt early what the outcome would be. After spotting Pojoaque a 4-0 lead to start the game, Española pulled away to a 21-9 lead after the first quarter and led 50-22 at halftime. In the second half, Española Coach James Branch emptied his bench and freely substituted five players at a time. The pace of the scoring for the Sundevils slowed down, but Española maintained its 28-point lead at the end of the third quarter and rolled to a 33-point win that improved their season record to 17-1 this year.

“We wanted to redeem ourselves from the loss at Española,” Española Coach James Branch said. “We wanted to build some momentum going into Tuesday’s (1/23) game (against District 2-5A rival Capital High School at Española).”

Pojoaque jumper out to a 4-0 lead to start the game after a pair of baskets by Isaac Roybal. Española came back. A steal and layup by Isaiah Vigil tied the score at 4-4 and the Sundevils took the lead for good when J. P. Sena scored inside off a nice feed from Ryan Trujillo.

Española’s J. P. Sena tries to block a shot by Pojoaque’s J. P. Lyon. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Elks were still in the game and Española led just 9-8 when the Sundevils’ Martin Gracia drove two daggers into the psyche of the Elks with back-to-back three-pointers that finished off a 10-0 run by Española.

“We knew we had to take great shots, not just good shots,” Pojoaque Coach Thomas Vigil said. “All of a sudden that changed our whole mentality.”

Pojoaque started to turn the ball over and rush their shots. Española started the second quarter with an 11-0 run the extend its lead to 32-9. Española sank four three-pointers in the second quarter and forced turnover after turnover that led to easy transition baskets for the Sundevils.

“Once we get into our rhythm, we’re good,” Coach Branch said.

Española took a 50-22 lead by halftime. If there was anything that didn’t go well for the Sundevils, it was their free-throw shooting, Española sank just 7-of-15 free throws in the first half.

“I didn’t like that,” Coach Branch said. “That can’t happen in districts.”

In the third quarter, each team scored 15 points. The Sundevils substituted freely. Española led by as many as 39 points in the fourth quarter before settling for a 79-46 victory.

Gracia led Española with 15 points. He has become Española’s sixth man off the bench, providing almost instant offense when he enters the game.

“I’m looking to help my team out by providing a spark,” he said.

Española’s Zach Mascarenas gets set to pass to teammate Bryan Martinez against Pojoaque. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Isaiah Vigil had 14 points, all in the first half. Zach Mascarenas and Scott Alexander each scored 10 points for the Sundevils.

Española’s Scott Alexander scores against Pojoaque. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Edward Medina Gym should be filled to the rafters Tuesday when Española and Capital square off in a game where first place in District 2-5A will be on the line. The Jaguars are 16-3 on the season and 1-0 in District 2-5A after defeating Del Norte High School 52-46 Jan. 20 in their district opener in Santa Fe.

“We knew it was coming,” Coach Branch said. “It will be a packed house. Enjoy it.”

Pojoaque’s Avaery Torrez loses the ball going to the basket against Española. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post