Española Sundevils Gets Revenge, Scuttle The Grant Pirates
Azaziah Salazar passes off to a teammate against Grants. Photo by George Morse\valleydailypost.com
By GEORGE MORSE
Valley Daily Post
Valley Daily Post
The Española Valley High School boys basketball team avenged their only loss so far this season with a 54-47 victory over Grants High School Dec. 23 at Española.
The Pirates had knocked off the Sundevils 73-66 in the championship game of the Eddie Pena basketball tournament Dec. 17 at Grants. The Pirates had built up a big lead after the first three quarters and held off an Española Valley rally in the fourth quarter in that game. In the rematch, it was Española who took the early lead and the Pirates who fought their way back into contention.
The Pirates’ press had bothered Española in the first game. The Sundevils were ready for it this time. Española beat the press with long passes to the left wing and scored in transition before the Pirate could set their defense. Grants was cold from the floor, missing several shots. Española took an 11-5 lead after JP Sena’s old-fashioned, three-point play. The Sundevils led 14-8 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Sundevils were beating the Pirates press and getting easy baskets. Azaziah Salazar had an open layup, then tossed a sweet assist from the high post to a wide open Martin Garcia for another easy two points. Two free throws by Salazar gave Española a 10-point lead 24-14 with 3:10 left in the first half.
Grants came back behind Matt Vail, who canned four straight free throws. A basket by Koby Garcia made the score 26-21 in favor of Española at halftime.
With Vail and Gregory Harris leading the way, the Pirates patiently chewed away at Española ’s lead in the third quarter. The Grants’ duo combined for nine points, while the Sundevils started to launch three-pointers that didn’t fall. A basket by Vail gave the Pirates a 30-29 lead with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
The Sundevils tightened up their defense and took better shots. Salazar had another sweet assist, this time to Josh Salazar under the basket. Josh Salazar then canned a pair of free throws.
Sena drove to the basket from the wing for a layup. An errant shot by Grants was rebounded by the Sundevils and Isaiah Vigil scored on a breakaway layup to give the Sundevils a 37-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Pirates again chipped away at the Sundevils’ lead with Vail leading the way.With 2:13 left in the game, Vail drove in for a basket and drew a foul. His free throw could have tied the game at 44-44, but he missed it.
Vail, who led all scorers with 25 points, finally completed the comeback.
Driving to the basket from the right side, he sank a left-handed layup that tied the score 47-47 with 1:15 left in the game.
Sena was fouled on Española ’s next possession. He made his first free throw, but missed the second. In the first of two fortuitous bounces for Española, the ball came of long off the iron and Sena was fouled again. Once more, he made one and missed one to give Española a 49-47 lead.
Grants missed a three-pointer on their next possession. The Pirates’ futility from beyond the arc was a key factor in the game. Grants missed all of their three-point attempts. However, the Sundevils kept the Pirates’ hopes alive by missing two free throws. Vail tried to tie the game, but his shot didn’t fall and Azaziah Salazar was fouled on the rebound. Salazar made his first free throw, but missed his second. In another fortuitous bounce, the ball came off long once more and Española grabbed the rebound. Salazar was back at the line and finally found the range for the Sundevils. He sank both shots for a 52-47 Española lead. An attempt at a three-pointer by Grants with less than 10 seconds left in the game was off the mark and Salazar sealed the victory with two more free throws with two seconds left, giving the Sundevils a 54-47 victory.
Sena led the Sundevils with 14 points. Azaziah Salazar had 12 points for Española. Española improved to 8-1 on the season. Española faced Socorro High School from El Paso, Texas in the opening round of the Rio Rancho Holiday tournament Wednesday in Rio Rancho.