Sundevils Sink Hilltoppers, Now 19-1 On The Season

by Staff Reporter / Jan 29, 2018 / comments
Española’s J. P. Sena takes the ball to the basket against Los Alamos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Sundevils Sink Hilltoppers, Now 19-1 On The Season

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School boys basketball team used a 22-0 run that started in the first quarter and spilled over into the second quarter to take a commanding 31-7 lead in the first half and cruised to victory 87-63 against the Los Alamos High School Hilltoppers in a District 2-5A matchup Jan. 26 at Española. The Sundevils improved to 19-1 on the season and 3-0 in District 2-5A.

Española had opened the game with a 9-0 run, capitalizing on two early turnovers by the Hilltoppers and converting layups by J. P. Sena and Isaiah Vigil. Vigil then canned a three-pointer and Sena sank two free throws. Los Alamos answered with a 7-0 run and trailed by just two points 9-7, but that was as close as Los Alamos would get.

Española’s J. P. Sena eyes the basket against Los Alamos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española forced turnover after turnover and the points started to pile up for the Sundevils. Española scored the last 15 of the first quarter. Eight different players put points in the scorebook in the first eight minutes of the game for the Sundevils. Christian Fernandez finished off the first quarter draining a three-pointer to make the score 27-7 heading into the second quarter.

Española’s Christian Fernandez drives to the basket against Los Alamos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“They couldn’t handle the defensive pressure,” Vigil said. “We were able to capitalize on all those turnovers.”

Fernandez started the second quarter with another three-pointer. Baskets by Zach Mascarenas and Brian Martinez finished off the 22-0 run by the Sundevils that gave Española a 24-point lead. Los Alamos managed to cut Española’s lead down to 15 points twice, the last time at 37-22. The Sundevils scored the last nine points of the first half and led 46-22 at halftime.

Española’s Zach Mascarenas gets fouled trying to score against Los Alamos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

By the middle of the third quarter, Española’s lead had grown to 62-29 after the second of two old-fashioned, three-point plays by post  Azaziah Salazar. Coach Branch substituted freely and every player on the roster saw action.

“We were able to get everybody playing time,” Coach Branch said.

By the end of the game, 11 players had scored for the Sundevils. Fidel Gutierrez, a 6-foot, 6-inch backup post, finished off the game pulling up and swishing a long three-pointer. Gutierrez scored all of his seven points in the fourth quarter.

Vigil led the Sundevils with 18 points. Fernandez finished with 14 points. Salazar and Sena, who both seem to be fully recovered after bouts with strep throat, had 12 points and 11 points, respectively.

Española’s J. P. Sena gets fouled going to the baket against Los Alamos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“It was good seeing him (Salazar) and J. P. get back in the groove,” Coach Branch said.

The Sundevils take on Del Norte High School Tuesday (1/30) in Albuquerque. Although the Knights are just 7-12 on the season, Española will be ready for the game. Del Norte surprised Española last season, defeating the Sundevils 63-56 at Española in the opening round of the Class 5A state basketball playoffs to end Española’s season. The memory of that loss still lingers for the Sundevils.

“They’re a tough tea,” Vigil said. “We’ll be ready to play.”

Española’s Cameron Martinez fights for the ball against Los Alamos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post