By George Morse
Taos’ High School’s Isaiah Jeantete sank a three-pointer from the corner that fell though the net after the final buzzer sounded to give the Tigers a 49-47 victory over Espanola Valley High School in the District 2-4A tournament championship game Feb. 29 at Espanola
“It feels amazing,” Jeantete said. “Like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”
Down 47-46 with 3.3 seconds remaining in the game, Taos inbounded the ball to Abdul Khweis. Closely guarded, he passed to Jeantete in the corner. The buzzer sounded while the ball was in the air. After conferring, officials ruled that the basket counted, giving Taos the victory.
“I told (Jeantete) that it would be like Michael Jordan giving the ball to Steve Kerr to win the game,” Khweis said. “”He hit the shot.”
Taos had called a timeout to set up the play.
“We were going to set a screen at half-court for Khweis,” Taos Coach Hernando Chavez said. “We sent a shooter to each corner in case he was guarded.
Khweis had realized quickly that he needed to give up the ball,
“I saw I was triple-teamed,” Khweis said. “I knew someone was open.”
The Tigers had come out strong to start the game. Khweis had 10 points in the first quarter, six of them on putbacks. Utilizing a pair of 6-foot, 6-inch posts in Noah Armijo and Josiah Duke, Taos dominated the backboards. Espanola couldn’t put the ball in the basket. The Sundevils were 0-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc in the first half. The Tigers led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Still dominating inside, Taos opened up a 23-10 lead in the second quarter after Anthony Padilla’s three-pointer. Coach Chavez decided to give his starters a rest. It didn’t work out as Espanola took advantage and made a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 23-14. Chavez had seen enough and brought his starters back in to stop the bleeding. The Tiders led 27-19 at halftime.
The Sundevils came out shooting in the third quarter. Jordan Duda and Jon Garcia sank three-pointers to cut Taos’ lead down to 29-25 to start the second half. The Sundevils were doing a little better on the inside. The score was 34-27 when Anthony Law and Ollie Fell combined for eight points during an 8-2 run by the Sundevils that made the score 36-35 in favor of the Tigers heading into the fourth quarter.
The Sundevils came back in the fourth quarter to take their first lead 41-40 since the first quarter when Fellbanked in a turnaround jumper. Armijo answered, showing off his outside game with his second three-pointer to give the lead back to the Tigers. Khweis put the Tigers ahead 45-41 with a basket.
Garcia scored Espanola’s next four point, including a putback to tie the game at 45-45 with 1:21 left to play. Taos had a turnover, but got the ball back on an Espanola turnover. Less than a minute was left in the game.
Fell blocked a shot by Angel Limas and the Sundevils whipped the ball downcourt to Duda, who scored on a fast break layup to give the Sundevils a 47-45 lead.
With 36 seconds left, a free throw by Jeantete made the score 47-46 in favor of the Sundevils. A bad pass by Espanola gave the ball back to Taos with 17.1 seconds left to play.
Taos got the ball to Khweis, who drove to the basket. He was fouled with 6.2 seconds left to play. With a chance to put Taos ahead, he missed both of his free throws. Fell grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 4.2 seconds left.
At the foul line shooting a one-and-one, Fell missed his first shot. Padilla grabbed the rebound and immediately called timeout with 3.3 seconds left. That led to the game’s final play and Jeantete’s game-winner.
Khweis led the Tigers with 17 points. Armijo finished with 12 points for Taos. Armijo proved to be a big factor this time against the Sundevils. He had not played in the Tigers 59-52 loss to Espanola Feb. 22 that earned the Sundevils the regular season District 2-4A title.
“He makes a big difference on both ends of the floor,” Coach Chavez said.
Garcia led Espanola with 17 points and was the only player in double figures for the Sundevils. Espanola sank just 2-of-15 three=point attempts during the game.
Despite winning, Taos received a lower seed than Espanola in the Class 4A state basketball tournament. Taos was seeded eighth and will face ninth-seeded Valencia High School Saturday in Taos.
Espanola received the seventh seed and will face 10th-seeded Kirtland Central High School Saturday at Espanola.
“It was a tough game,” Espanola Coach Gabe Martinez said. “We keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing and learn from this game. We need to have short-term memories. Leave this game in the past and move forward.”