Sundevils take first at Sandia Prep Tournament
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
The Espanola Valley High School Sundevils returned from Albuquerque with the first-place trophy of the Sundevil Invitational hosted by Sandia Prep High School. Espanola defeated Silver (City) High School 55-46 Dec. 12 in the championship game at Albuquerque.
“I really like what I’m seeing,” Espanola Coach Richard Martinez said. “These kids, they don’t know how to lose. They fight until the very end.”
Nothing emphasized that better than Espanola’s 85-82 victory over Las Vegas Robertson High School on four overtimes Dec. 11 in the tournament semifinals. Down 55-43 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Sundevils came roaring back to tie the score 63-63 at the end of regulation.
“I knew Robertson was going to be tough,” Coach Martinez sai. “They must have hit 14 o4 15 three’s (three-pointers). We were able to get a couple of good runs.”
After two overtimes, the score remained tied. In the third overtime, it looked like the end for Espanola. Robertson held a three-point lead with just seconds left to play. That’s when junior guard Josh Salazar hammered in a three-pointer to tie the score.
“Josh hit that shot from four feet behind the arc,” Coach Martinez said. “He knocked it down.”
Salazar delivered again, knocking down another three-pointer to start the fourth overtime. The Cardinals fought back and were within two points of the Sundevils with less than a minute left in the game. Sophomore post Azaziah Salazar drained two key free throws to give the Sundevils an 84-80 lead. After Robertson scored, Azaziah Salazar nailed another free throw with three seconds left in the game to secure the Sundevils’ victory.
Azaziah Salazar led the Sundevils with 16 points.
Facing Silver in the championship game, the Sundevils started well, taking a 14-8 lead in the first quarter. The Colts came back and took an 18-16 lead after back-to-back three pointers in the second quarter. The two teams battled back and forth. A three-pointer by Sal Cruz gave Silver a 24-22 lead at the end of the first half.
Silver extended their lead to 32-24 in the third quarter after another three-pointer. The Sundevils began to look inside for sophomore post James “Tree” Archuleta. He and Azaziah Salazar, along with junior post Leo Pacheco, took over in the paint and brought the Sundevils back. Espanola led 40-39 at the end of the third quarter.
“We pounded the ball into James hard,” Coach Martinez said. “I have thee bigs that can control the paint.”
Silver took its final lead 41-40 in the fourth quarter. A three-pointer by Elias Archuleta gave the lead back to Espanola. With the score tied 43-43, a basket by Marcos Flores gave Espanola the lead for good 45-43.
Silver had a chance to tie the game when Flores missed the front end of a one-and-one from the foul line with Espanola leading 49-46 with 1:39 left in the game. Silver missed a potential game-tying three-pointer and Flores redeemed himself at the line, sinking a pair of free throws with1:15 left to play. Silver kept misfiring on their three-pointers. Azaziah Salazar put the game away for the Sundevils, going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the closing minute to nail down the victory and the tournament championship.
Azaziah Salazar and Flores each scored 11 points to lead the Sundevils. James Archuleta added 11 points for Espanola. Azaziah Salazar was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Í’m really proud of these guys,” Coach Martinez said. “They just keep getting better and betterwith every game.”