JV Sundevils Play For Championship, Lose To Host Braves

by Staff Reporter / Dec 05, 2017 / comments
Española’s Christian Azipuro goes up for a shot against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

JV Sundevils Play For Championship, Lose To Host Braves

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The spotlight was on the Española Valley High School junior varsity boys basketball team last week. With the varsity Sundevils not seeing action until Dec. 7 at the Sandia Prep Tournament, the junior Sundevils made some noise by advancing to the championship game of the Santa Fe Indian School tournament as the only junior varsity team participating in the tournament. They lost to host Santa Fe Indian School 74-66 in the championship game Dec. 2 in Santa Fe.

“I told them after the game second place in a varsity tournament is not a bad a place to be,” Coach Dennis Archuleta said.

The Sundevils had defeated Santa Fe Prep 97-92 Nov. 30 in the opening round of the tournament Española knocked off Dulce High School 68-55 Dec. 1 in the semifinals to set up a showdown against host Santa Fe Indian School Dec. 2 in the championship game. The Braves had defeated Native American Community Academy 65-23 and Penasco High School 87-40 to get to the championship game.

“We were worn out,” Coach Archuleta said. “We just didn’t have the energy. They (Indian School) didn’t have to fight as hard as we had the last two games.”

Española kept fighting back and getting close to Indian School in the championship game, but could never catch up and take the lead.

Española’s Luis Molina goes up for a shot against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“Not taking anything away from Indian School, they played well and were quick and athletic,” Coach Archuleta said.

The Sundevils trailed 28-15 in the second quarter. Española rallied by firing away from three-point land. Luis Molina, Christian Azipuro and Jordan Duda fired in three-pointers to make the score 35-29 in favor of the Braves.

Española’s Jason Duda drives against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

A basket by Azipuro and then a three-pointer by Ruben Salazar banked in at the buzzer made the score 36-34 at halftime.

Española’s Christian Azipuro shoots a jumper against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

In the third quarter, a three-pointer by Mario Equino put Española within a point of the Braves 38-37. A basket by James Bridges and a three-pointer by Raheem Alonzo put the braves back in front 43-37. The Sundevils cut the Braves lead to two points twice in the third quarter and trailed by just three points 52-49 when a three-pointer by Jason Abeyta gave the Braves a 55-49 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Bridges took over to start the fourth quarter, scoring five of his 12 fourth-quarter points on a pair of free throws and then converting an old-fashioned, three-point play. That gave Indian School its biggest lead of the second half 60-49. The Sundevils kept battling and were within five points of the Braves 68-63 after a pair of free throws by Duda. The Braves’ Alex Aguino converted an old-fashioned, three-point play to give Indian School a 71-63 lead with 1:03 left in the game.

A three-pointer by John Garcia cut the lead back down to five points 71-66. Bridges put the game away when he tipped in a missed free throw for the final two points in Indian School’s 74-66 victory. Bridges led all scorers with 29 points (20 in the second half) and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Azipuro led Española with 15 points and Molina scored 10 points for the Sundevils. Duda had 10 points. Azipuro had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

The Española junior varsity is the training ground for underclassmen that prepares them for varsity competition later in their high school careers. With eight seniors on this year’s varsity roster for the Sundevils, there will be plenty of positions to fill next season.

“Our goal is to get them prepared to fill those spots that will be available next year,” Coach Archuleta said.