A fan tells it all following the Sundevils victory over Piedra Vista. Valley Daily Post image
Sundevils Put Away Piedra Vista: Next Is Bernalillo Wed Evening
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
The Espanola Valley High School Sundevils started slow and finished strong against a stubborn Piedra Vista High School team. Espanola advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state basketball tournament with a 65-56 victory over the Panthers in an opening-round game March 6 at Espanola.
The Panthers took an early lead in the first quarter until the Sundevils bombed their way back into the lead. After Espanola led 3-2 on Elias Archuleta’s three-pointer, Piedra Vista put together a 7-0 run to take a 9-3 lead.
Josh Salazar came into the game and promptly canned a three-pointer. After two free throws by Azaziah Salazar, Josh Salazar knocked in another three-pointer to give the Sundevils an 11-9 lead.
“Josh gave us a good boost,” Azaziah Salazar said. “After that, we just broke them down.”
Azaziah “Az” Salazar. Valley Daily Post photo
Espanola would never trail again, but could never pull away from the pesky Panthers. The Sundevils led 19-13 at the end of the first quarter and 33-24 at halftime. Azaziah Salazar had 10 points at the break.
Thanks to two more three-pointers by Archuleta, the Sundevils led by as much as 14 points in the third quarter. The Panthers had trouble hitting their shots and at one point seemed to be stalling despite being down by nine points. The Panthers took almost two minutes off the clock without attempting a shot. Towards the end of the third quarter, Piedra Vista made a little 7-0 run that cut Espanola’s lead to four points. Two free throws by Marcos Flores made the score 46-40 at the end of the third quarter.
Marcos Flores. Valley Daily Post photo
The Panthers tried to peck away at Espanola’s lead and at one point cut Espanola’s lead to three points 54-51 after a three-pointer by Keegan Acosta. Espanola spread the floor and worked the ball around the perimeter until James Archuleta shook himself free and was all alone for a layup that made the score 58-51. The Sundevils finished out the game going 7-of-8 from the free-throw line to earn the victory. The Sundevils were 26-32 from the line, while the Panthers were just 4-of-6.
The Sundevils would face a familiar foe in the Class 5A state quarterfinals Wednesday (3/9) at the Pit in Albuquerque. Bernalillo High School upset fourth-seeded Farmington 52-50 March 5 at Farmington to advance to the quarterfinals. The Spartans and the Sundevils split their season series during the regular season, with Bernalillo winning at home and Espanola winning at Espanola
“I’ll be showcasing our kids again at the state tournament,” Espanola Coach Richard Martinez said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”