Sundevils Annihilate Academy 97-65, Now 21-1

by Staff Reporter / Feb 05, 2018 / comments
Española’s Ryan Trujillo drives against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Sundevils Annihilate Academy 97-65, Now 21-1

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School boys basketball team put on a show for their hometown fans with a dominating 97-65 victory over Albuquerque Academy Feb. 2 at Edward Medina Gym. With deadly accuracy, the Sundevils launched laser-guided missiles from beyond the three-point arc to bomb the Chargers into submission.

“It was a good one,” senior Isaiah Vigil said. “Everybody on the bench, everybody on the court had fun. It helps keep our morale up.”

Española’s Isaiah Vigil drives against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Vigil led the Sundevils offensive onslaught, sinking six three-pointers. Española sank 18 long bombs during the game. Coming off a hard-fought 77-67 road victory Jan. 31 at Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, the Sundevils had to make sure they weren’t caught looking ahead to another District 2-5A showdown against arch rival Capital High School Feb. 9 in Santa Fe.

“We really wanted to have a good, up-tempo game to give us some momentum and prepare for Capital Friday (2/9),” senior Martin Gracia said.

Española’s Martin Gracia drives to the basket against Albuquerque Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The game got off to a slow start and Academy grabbed its first and only lead 2-0 after a basket by Chris Harvey. Española made a 6-0 run as J. P. Sena sandwiched two baskets around a score by Christian Fernandez. Vigil sank Española’s first three-pointer to give the Sundevils a 9-4 lead and Ryan Trujillo’s three-pointer upped Española’s lead to 14-6. A nice dunk by Harvey gave the Chargers a lift. Azaziah Salazar’s basket gave Española a 16-8 lead after the first quarter.

Española’s Christian Fernandez goes to the basket against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

It was in the second quarter that the Sundevils started to establish themselves, thanks to some stellar defense and some fresh troops from the bench. Española’s defense started to create turnovers. Gracia was the beneficiary of those Academy miscues, getting three easy layups. After a 13-0 run that ended with a three-pointer by Brian Martinez, Española’s lead had ballooned to 23 points.

It reached 25 points after a three-pointer by Vigil and another by Martinez. The Sundevils led 44-22 at halftime.

The bombs really started to fall in the third quarter. Vigil had three long treys. Gracia buried two more three-pointers and Zach Mascarenas had a pair of long bombs as Española sank seven three-pointers and led 73-43 going into the fourth quarter.

Española’s Zach Mascarenas goes for a layup against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Everybody got in on the fun in the fourth quarter as Española Coach James Branch emptied his bench. At one point, Española had its three tallest players on the court at the same time in 6-foot, 6-inch senior Fidel Gutierrez, 6-foot, 4-inch junior Justino Rascon and the 6-foot, 4-inch Salazar. The starters now sat on the bench and cheered every basket by their teammates on the court.

“It was good for them to have some fun,” Coach Branch said. “To play everybody. It was good for morale.”

Vigil finished with 22 points, while Gracia had 20 points for the Sundevils. Trujillo had 12 points and Martinez finished with 11 points. Española had 10 players put points in the scorebook.

Española improved to 21-1 and 5-0 in District 2-5A.

The Sundevils will not see action again until their showdown Feb. 9 against Capital.  The Jaguars are 18-4 overall and 3-1 in District 2-5A. Capital will face a tough road game against Del Norte in Albuquerque Tuesday (2/6) in Albuquerque. The Knights gave Española all the Sundevils could handle and outscored Española in the second and the third quarters of their game Jan. 31 in Albuquerque after falling behind 20-6 in the first quarter. The Sundevils were able to put Del Norte away in the fourth quarter.

“They’re a handful,” Coach Branch said. “They’re not easy.”

One of the strengths of the Sundevils has been their ability to create turnovers and score in transition. Coach Branch knows that the Sundevils likely will have to play a more-controlled style sometime during the postseason.

“As it gets later in the year, games are going to get a lot more half-court oriented,” he said. “We’ll need to execute.”