Española Boys Fall To Hope Christian In Championship Game At Rio Rancho Tournament


Luis Herrera drives to the basket against the Hope Christian Huskies. Photo by George Morse with the Valley Daily Post

Española Boys Fall To Hope Christian In Championship Game At Rio Rancho Tournament

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Class 5A Española Valley High School boys basketball team defeated two Class 6A high schools at the Jalene Berger Holiday Hoops Classic Tournament at Rio Rancho High School. The Sundevils beat Las Cruces High School 50-38 Dec. 28 in the opening round of the tournament, then knocked off host Rio Rancho 61-52 in the semifinals to advance to the championship game.

In the championship game Dec. 30, the Sundevils took on the Hope Christian High School Huskies. A perennial power in their class, the Huskies have won three straight state championships (one in Class 4A, two in Class 3A) and six of the last seven state championships in their class. Regardless off class, Hope is one of the premier basketball programs in the state.

The Huskies showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with again, thoroughly dominating Española 60-32 to take the tournament title at Rio Rancho.                 

In the win over Las Cruces, Española relied on depth and defense to defeat the Bulldogs. Española did not have a player scoring in double digits, but had 10 different players put points in the scorebook. Marcos Flores and Uriah Arellano each scored nine points to lead the Sundevils.

Española led 16-10 at the end of the first quarter. With a smothering defense that held Las Cruces to three points in the second quarter, the Sundevils took control of the game. With Elias Archuleta burying back-to-back three-pointers, Española scored 11 points to take a 27-13 lead at halftime.

Despite 10 points in the third quarter by Las Cruces’ Markus Collins, who led all scorers with 18 points, the Bulldogs made a run at the Sundevils. The rest of the Bulldogs didn’t give Collins a lot of help and Española still led by a dozen points 37-27 at the end of the third quarter.

Marcos Flores passes to Azaziah Salazar against Hope Christian​. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post

The Sundevils held off the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, thanks to Flores going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to offset a 4-for-11 performance by his teammates. Española took a 50-38 victory.

It was sweet revenge for the Sundevils when they faced Rio Rancho in the semifinals. The Rams had beaten Española 67-56 Dec. 1 in Rio Rancho. Española beat the Rams at their own game. Rio Rancho loves to run, but it was Arellano who beat the Rams downcourt for layups. He led all scorers with 17 points. J. P. Sena added 12 points and Azaziah Salazar had 10 points for the Sundevils.

Española led 11-9 at the end of the first quarter and 28-21 at halftime. The Rams had cut the lead to 41-37 by the end of the third quarter.

The Sundevils were able to hold off the Rams in the fourth quarter despite a shaky performance from the free-throw line. The Sundevils were just 8-of-19 from the charity stripe, but the Rams faltered at the line as well. Rio Rancho was just 4-of-10 and the Sundevils held on for a 61-52 win.

Española actually led 10-9 at the end of the first quarter against Hope. It was a total disaster for the Sundevils in the second quarter, as they scored just two points. Hope led 21-12 at halftime.

The Huskies hit the floor running in the third quarter. The Sundevils have been outscored in the third quarter in their last four games. Hope hammered the Sundevils on the boards, found the outlet pass and raced down the court to score in transition time after time. The Huskies poured it on, scoring 23 points while the Sundevils tallied a meager eight points. Hope led 44-20 going into the fourth quarter.

Not even a poor 6-of-17 performance from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter by the Huskies could help the Sundevils catch up. Hope took an easy 60-32 victory.

“We’re still shooting ourselves in the foot,” Española Coach Richard Martinez said. “Bad passes, missed free throws. Trying to force it when it’s not there.”

The Sundevils face Taos Tuesday and the start of the varsity game has been moved from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. Española faces Santa Fe High School Thursday (Jan. 7) in a game that had been scheduled for Dec.15 but was canceled because of the weather. The varsity game will be at 7 p.m.