Espanola's Luis Molina dribbles past Capital's TJ Sanchez in the Sundevils' 65-59 loss to the Jaguars Jan. 19 at Espanola (photo by Roman Martinez).
By George Morse
Espanola Valley High School finished its pre-district schedule with another classic battle against long-time rival Capital High School from Santa Fe Jan. 19 in Espanola. Like many games in the past, this one went down to the wire before one team was able to claim victory. The Jaguars were able to hang on to a 64-59 victory.
After 23 years of battling within the same district and often in the state basketball tournament against each other, this year’s win will just go down as one “W” in the won-lost record of the winning team. Capital will now do battle in Class 5A, while the Sundevils will fight on in Class 4A. That did not diminish the ferocity of play as the two teams went after each other for the only time this season.
Capital came out smoking in the first quarter, hitting six of its first nine shots. Three-pointers by Dominic Luna, who would later leave the game in the first half after a shot to the jaw, and TJ Sanchez propelled Capital to a 12-2 lead. Espanola began to chip away at the lead as the Jaguars cooled down.
Brian Martinez and Jordan Duda hit back-to-back three pointers. A pair of free throws by John Garcia bounced into the basket and the Sundevis had cut Capital’s lead down to a point 16-15. The Jaguars finished the first quarter with a driving layup by Sigi Olivas for a 19-15 lead.
Trailing 24-20 in the second quarter, Espanola put together a 9-0 run that started with a three-pointer by Duda. Two free throws by Luis Molina gave the Sundevils a 25-24 lead at 3:46 mark of the first half. Baskets by Justino Rascon and Duda gave Espanola a 29-25 lead. After Capital had cut the lead to a single point 29-28, Espanola point guard Ryan Trujillo fed Garcia for a layup to make the score 31-28 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Sundevils were leading 35-32 when Capital’s Seth Arroyos went to work. He hit a three-pointer to tie the score at the 5:44 mark. With the score tied 37-37, Arroyos scored Capital’s next seven points, finishing with a three-pointer that gave the Jaguars a 44-41 lead. The Jaguars led 50-44 at the end of the third quarter. Arroyos had 12 points.
Another bomb by Arroyos gave Capital a 53-46 lead in the fourth quarter. Trujillo then took over for Espanola, furiously attacking the basket. He drove in for layups and drew fouls. He matched Arroyos’ efforts and kept the Sundevils within a basket of catching Capital. Two free throws by Trujillo made the score 61-59 in favor of Capital with 1:05 left in the game.
However, Trujillo picked up two personal fouls in the next 20 seconds and fouled out with 40.2 seconds left to play. Espanola had one more chance to tie the score when on the inbounds play following Trujillo’s fifth foul, Rascon came u with the ball and drove to the basket. Harassed by Sanchez, his layup rolled off the rim and was grabbed by Capital’s Elias Rodriguez. Rodriguez was fouled and hit two free throws with 34.3 seconds left to give Capital a 63-59 lead. Without Trujillo, the Sundevils couldn’t get another score. Capital came away with a 64-59 victory.
Arroyos led all scorers with 21 points, all in the second half. Trujillo had 15 points for Espanola.
Sundevils Beat Braves
Espanola bounced back from the heart-breaking loss to Gallup High School with a solid victory over Class 3A Santa Fe Indian School Jan. 16 in Santa Fe. The Braves battled but proved to be no match for Espanola. The Sundevils led 42-28 at halftime and went on to a 79-61 victory. Trujillo led Espanola with 24 points.
Bengals’ Buzzer-Beater Sinks Sundevils
In an emotional home-opener, the Espanola Valley High School Sundevils suffered a heart-breaking defeat to Gallup High School Jan. 10 at Espanola. Playing for the first time at home in front of their loyal fans, Espanola lost 78-77 when a three-point bomb by Gallup’s Issac Bustinza ripped through the net at the buzzer.
It was the second big shot that Bustinza made in the final seconds. He drained a corner three-pointer with 16.4 seconds left in the game to make the score 76-75 in favor of the Sundevils. With 8.3 seconds left in the game, Espanola point guard Ryan Trujillo missed the second of two free throws, giving Gallup one last shot and Bustinza nailed it from the left wing to break the Espanola’s heart.
The game was played after a ceremony honoring Cameron Martinez, a 2018 Espanola graduate and varsity basketball player who was killed Oct. 4 in a drive-by shooting in front of Ohkay Owingeh Casino. His jersey was retired and a portrait of him unveiled hanging in the southeast corner of Edward Medina Gym.
Gallup took the early lead, taking advantage of Espanola turnovers and erratic free-throw shooting to build a 21-14 lead in the first quarter. Despite getting overwhelmed on the offensive boards by the Bengals, Espanola managed to stay close to Gallup and trailed 39-32 at halftime after a putback by Jon Garcia at the buzzer.
The Bengals couldn’t buy a basket in the third quarter, missing shot after shot despite getting second chances, third chances and fourth chances. They were still dominating the boards, but shot less than 20-percent from the floor while the Sundevils were nailing more of their shots. Brian Martinez had a couple of three-pointers and Christian Aizpuro gave Espanola a lift off the bench with six points. Espanola outscored Gallup 24-15 to take a 56-54 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The two teams traded blows, but at the free-throw line the Bengals nailed all six of their shots in the fourth quarter, while the Sundevils sank just 6-of-11 chances. Quinn Atazahan and Tyrell Begay each had seven points for the Bengals in the fourth quarter. Gallup continued to control the boards and gave itself a chance to win.
Gallup, ranked second in the State in Class 4A, is 11-5 on the season.
Espanola takes on Pojoaque Valley High School Thursday in its first game in District 2-4 competition. The Sundevils are 9-8 overall and ranked seventh is Class 4A. Pojoaque and Espanola are local rivals that will now be district rivals as well. The Elks are struggling this season and are just 5-12 overall. Pojoaque has lost its last six games.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Espanola point guard Ryan Trujillo brings the ball downcourt against Capital (photo by Roman Martinez). Espanola's Jon Garcia gets double-teamed in the paint by two Capital defenders. Espanola's Justino Rascon and Ryan Trujillo bang into each other going after the ball.