Espanola Comes Back To Beat Capital, Now Tied For First In District 2AAAAA


Espanola Comes Back To Beat Capital, Now Tied For First In District 2AAAAA

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Good teams find a way to win despite adversity. The Espanola Valley High School boys basketball team needed a victory over Capital High School to tie the Jaguars for first place in District 2AAAAA. In hostile territory on the Jaguars’ home court Feb. 17 in Santa Fe and trailing by nine points with just over two minutes left in the game, the Sundevils finished the game a 12-2 run to snatch a 51-50 victory.

“Sticking with each other and staying united as a team,” senior Uriah Arellano said. “Marcos (Flores) did his job and went to the basket.”

Flores sank a driving layup with seven seconds left to play that sealed the Sundevils win. Flores had been having a tough game up until then, missing several layups and going just 2-of-5 from the free-throw line.

‘He (Espanola Coach Richard Martinez) drew it up,” Flores said. “I had to keep my head. Take it to the lane. I had Uriah or AZ (Salazar) to dish off to. It was open so I took it in. Right-handed reverse layup. It felt good.”

Coach Martinez had faith in his team and in Flores.

“Marcos has been in a lot of pressure situations,” Coach Martinez said. “He’s been with me a long time. Players have been with me a long time and don’t hear my words. He has heard them.”

It was the second game-winning shot for Flores this month. He sank a pullup jumper Feb. 6 against Sandia High School to give the Sundevils a 44-43 win at Espanola.

“He’s (Coach Martinez) has been there through thick and thin,” Flores said. “Him picking me out of all the other people was probably the most high you can ever get.”

Down 48-39 when they began their run, Arellano started the Sundevil’s winning run with a drive from the top of the key. He had been fouled, but missed the ensuing free throw. Espanola came up with the rebound and Arellano redeemed himself with another layup.

Arellano came up with a steal on Capital’s next possession. He suffered what could have been a crushing blow when he lost the handle on the ball driving to the basket.

The setback was only momentary. Arellano scored again on a drive from the left side after another Capital turnover. After that basket, Flores stole the ball on the ensuing inbounds play and drove in for a basket that made the score 48-47 with one minute left to play.

Capital’s Bryan Garcia was fouled and went to the line. He made one of his charity tosses. Arellano, who had missed his last three free throws, coolly sank a pair to tie the game at 49-49 with 35.5 seconds remaining.

Capital’s Eric Coca was fouled with 23.4 seconds left in the game. He had made his last eight free throws, but this time he missed one of his two attempts, making the score 50-49.

With 17.8 seconds left in the game, Coach Martinez called a timeout and drew up the play that led to Flores’ winning shot.

After Flores’ basket, Capital gave the ball to Coca, who drove the length of the court to the basket. The ball rolled off the front of the rim to preserve Espanola’s victory.

The game had begun with Capital taking a 10-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. All six of Espanola’s points were scored by James “Tree” Archuleta. The Sundevils came back in the second quarter. Espanola was misfiring from the perimeter and Coach Martinez was looking for someone who could sink a shot. He inserted Isaiah Vigil into the game, who delivered a jumper from the lane, then canned Espanola’s first three-pointer to give the Sundevils a 15-12 lead.

After Capital went ahead 16-15 after two free throws by Coca, senior Elias Archuleta canned another three-pointer to put Espanola ahead 18-16. Salazar scored to help Espanola lead 20-19 at halftime.

Capital came back in the third quarter. With Espanola leading 23-22, the Jaguars put together a 10-3 run that Isaiah Brooks finished off with a layup after a steal of a tipped pass, giving Capital a 32-26 lead.

Capital did not score again in the third quarter, but Espanola couldn’t gain any ground. The Sundevils missed five straight free throws, including the front end of three one-and-one opportunities. Capital still led 32-26 going into the fourth quarter. 

The Jaguars took a 39-30 lead in the fourth quarter and only a long three-pointer by Elias Archuleta kept Capital from taking a double-digit lead. Capital took a 48-39 lead after four straight free throws by Coca to set the stage for Espanola’s game-winning rally.

Flores’ has now beaten Capital on the football field as well as the basketball court. He was Espanola’s quarterback when the Sundevils beat the Jaguars 26-24 to clinch Espanola’s first –ever District 2AAAAA championship in football.

“Beating Capital at our home for football was another high,” Flores said. “But I can say I beat Capital twice.”

If the Jaguars and Sundevils remain tied for first place after the regular season ends, the two teams will meet Monday (2/22) at a neutral site to determine the District 2AAAAA regular season champion. The winner receives an automatic berth in the Class 5A state basketball tournament and will host the District 2AAAAA tournament championship game.