Sundevils Take Down The Tigers

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Española's Justino Rascon shoots over a Taos Tiger in the Sundevils' 74-59 victory Jan. 7 at  Española. Rascon would leave with an injured shoulder later in the game.

Sundevils Take Down The Tigers

By George Morse

The Española Valley High School boys basketball team took sole possession of first place in District 2-4A with a 74-59 victory over Taos High School Feb. 7 at Española. The Sundevils used a ball-hawking defense to break away from the Tigers after the score was tied 52-52 in the fourth quarter.

“We make defense our first priority,” Española senior Brian Martinez said. “Our defense makes our offense flow. Defense is our mentality.”

Martinez had 15 points in the second half to compliment the play of point guard Ryan Trujillo, who had 16 points in the first half. Key contributions by other Sundevils  at crucial moments in the game helped Española stay with the tenacious Tigers until the pressure from Española’s defense final wore Taos down.

Trujillo finished with 25 points.

“We worked so much on defense all week,” Trujillo said. “Pressure the ball and read passes.”

The Tigers made an early run to start the game and took a 9-5 lead. Española came back and tied the score at 11-11. Taos took a 14-11 lead after a three-point basket by Abdul Khweis. Española answered with scores by Gabriel Serrano and Trujillo to take a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, a three-pointer by Christian Aizpuro started and 8-0 run by the Sundevils that Trujillo finished with an old-fashioned, three-point play. After that, the shots stopped falling for the Sundevils, particularly from the perimeter where shot after shot would not fall. Española also went 0-of-4 from the free-throw line. Behind Khweis, Taos made an 11-2 run that tied the score 31-31 at halftime.

Martinez had been misfiring from the three-point arc in the first half. He found the range in the second half.

”I’m a shooter,” he said. “You just got to keep shooting. I kept my head up and the shots started falling.”

Martinez started the third quarter with a three-pointer. The action was back-and-forth. Española would take the lead, only to have the Tigers come back to tie the score 36-36 after a Khweis three-pointer. Española led 40-38 when a rare four-point play by Husam Khweis on a three-pointer and a foul gave the Tigers a 42-40 lead. Española tied the score and took a 45-42 lead on Martinez’s second three-pointer. An old-fashioned, three-point play by Abdul Khweis tied the score 45-45 with 16.9 seconds left in the third quarter. Martinez’s third three-pointer at the buzzer gave Española a 48-45 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter started with a Taos turnover that led to a baseline jumper by Martinez. Taos came back, tying the score at 52-52 on a Noah Armijo basket. Española quickly answered on a three-pointer by Aizpuro. Another Taos turnover led to a Jon Garcia score. Another Tiger turnover was converted into a layup by Aizpuro that gave the Sundevils a 59-52 lead.

Husam Khweis’ three-pointer made the score 61-57 in favor of the Sundevils. Trujillo was called for a charging foul and was visibly upset with the call. He took his frustration out on the Tigers. Trujillo canned a pair of free throws, then stole a pass that he converted into a layup. Another Taos turnover led to a missed layup, but Garcia was there for the putback that gave Española a 67-57 lead. The pressure of Española’s defense finally wore the Tigers down. The Sundevils finished the game with a 13-2 run for a 74-59 victory.

Abdul Khweis led the Tigers with 21 points. Taos struggled all game long from the free-throw line, sinking just 5-of-17 from the line. Trujillo alone was 11-of-16 from the line for Española.

“It was a big win for us,” he said.

The Sundevils took over first place in District 2-4A with the victory, while Taos fellto 3-1 in second place. The Sundevils faced local rival Pojoaque Feb. 9 at Española in their next District 2-4A game.

Española's Jordan Duda looks to dish off to Ryan Trujillo against the Taos Tigers.

Española's Jon Garcia has the ball knocked out of his hands by Taos' Martin Jaramillo.