Strong First Half Carries Sundevils Over Valencia

by Staff Reporter / Mar 05, 2018 / comments
Española ’s Christian Fernandez drives in for a layup against Valencia. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Strong First Half Carries Sundevils Over Valencia

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Valley Daily Post 2018 State Tournament Coverage is brought to you in partnership with KDCE Radio

The top-seeded Española Valley High School Sundevils did just about everything right in the first half of their opening-round game of the Class 5A state basketball tournament March 3 at Edward Medina Gym in Española. In the second half, the Sundevils made enough plays to hold off Valencia High School for a 68-51 victory

Española rattled the Jaguars into numerous turnovers in the first half with their pressure defense while converting layups and burying three-pointers on offense. Valencia had tried to slow the Sundevils down with patient perimeter passing, but all it did was burn time off the clock without the Jaguars putting points on the scoreboard. Española ’s press forced four ten-second violations when Valencia failed to get the ball past midcourt.

With the score tied 2-2, the Sundevils got back-to-back, old-fashioned, three-point plays by J. P. Sena and Isaiah Vigil. After a driving layup by Christian Fernandez, Martin Gracia buried a three-pointer to complete an 11-0 run. Española led 13-2 at the end of the first quarter.

Española ’s J. P. Sena goes up for two points against the Jaguars. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Leading 15-3 in the second quarter, Española put together a 12-0 run that featured back-to-back three pointers by Vigil and Gracia. Fernandez’s steal and layup gave the Sundevils a 27-3 lead. Española led 33-12 at halftime.

Española ’s Christian Fernandez sinks a layup against Valencia. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Jaguars threw patience out the window in the second half and started attacking the basket and firing up shots. Andres Lucero drained a pair of three-pointers. The Sundevils answered by working the ball inside to Sena for a pair of layups. Despite the frantic efforts of Valencia to get back in the game, Española still maintained a 20-point lead 47-27 after Brian Martinez’s old-fashioned, three-point play.

Española ’s Brian Martinez (24) and Ryan Trujillo go up for the ball against Valencia. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

There was still fight left in the Jaguars and Valencia put together a 10-1 run that ended with an old-fashioned, three-point play by Garrett Wade that made the score 48-37 with just five seconds left in the third quarter.

“They came out a little harder in the second half,” Sena said. “We still got the win.”

Fernandez quickly drove downcourt, drawing a foul on an attempted layup. He nailed both free throws to give Española a 50-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Española’s Christian Fernandez goes up for a layup against Valencia. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

A pair of free throws by Sena and a three-pointer by Martinez to start the fourth quarter gave the Sundevils a more comfortable 55-37 lead. The Sundevils put the game away at the free-throw line, sinking 9-of-13 free throws the rest of the way to take a 68-51 victory.

‘Our effort, our energy got us that 20-point lead,” Española Coach James Branch said. “”We expended a lot of energy in that first half. We got it done.”

Fernandez led the Sundevils with 18 points, including 10-of-12 from the free-throw line. Sena scored 12 points. Vigil had 10 points, all in the first half. Española was 20-of-30 from the free-throw line.

 Española ’s Isaiah Vigil goes up for two points against Valencia. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española advances to the state quarterfinals, where they will play Wednesday (3/7) at the Pit against St. Pius X High School from Albuquerque. St. Pius beat Gallup High School 58-47 in an opening-round game March 3 at St. Pius. During the regular season, Española defeated St. Pius 74-52 Dec. 8 at the Sandia Prep Invitational tournament in Albuquerque