Sundevils Defeat Del Norte To Go Undefeated In District Play

by Staff Reporter / Feb 19, 2018 / comments
Española’s Christian Fernandez drives to the basket against Del Norte’. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Sundevils Defeat Del Norte To Go Undefeated In District Play

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School boys basketball team routed the Del Norte High School Knights 98-73 in their final regular season game Feb. 17 at Española.

Española finishes the regular season 24-1 and takes first place in District 2-5A with an 8-0 record. In its last  four district games, the Sundevils have averaged 94 points-per-game. They are currently ranked first in the state in Class 5A.

Showcasing the superior depth on this year’s team, the Sundevils had seven players score in double figures, led by junior points guard Ryan Trujillo’s 17 points. Zach Mascarenas had 14 points. Martin Gracia, J. P, Sena and Isaiah Vigil each scored 13 points. Azaiah Salazar and Christian Fernandez each scored 10 points for Española.

 Española’s Ryan Trujillo drives to the basket. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Trujillo scored 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter and those 11 points all came consecutively. With Española leading 4-3, Trujillo converted an old-fashioned three-point play with a layupand a free throw. He then drained back-to-back three-pointers and finished his run off with a layup off a turnover to give Española a 15-8 lead. After the Sundevils missed four straight free throws and the Knights whittled the lead down to three points, Vigil and Gracia nailed three-pointers to give Española a 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

After making just 2-of-9 from the free-throw line in the first quarter, the Sundevils sanl six free throws in a row to go with a layup by Fernandez to take a 29-18 lead. Ahead 30-21, the Sundevils put together a 14-4 run highlighted by back-to-back, old-fashioned, three-point plays by Sena.  Gracia’s three-pointer gave the Sundevils a 49-26 lead.

Defense gave the Sundevils their big advantage in the first half. Despite not scoring a point, senior Cameron Martinez keyed a swarming Sundevils’ defense that created turnovers that gave Española more opportunities to score.

“Cameron jump-started us in our trap defense,” Española Coach James Branch said. “”We were able to get out in transition and get some easy baskets.”

Martinez is one of eight seniors on Española’s team.

‘We use our effort on defense to get our effort on offense going,” Martinez said. “Defense is what’s going to win us more ball games.”

Leading 49-32 at halftime, the Sundevils didn’t sink any three-pointers in the third quarter,. They didn’t need to. With Del Norte frantically trying to get back in the game and playing helter-skelter basketball, Española was content to convert turnovers and missed shots into layups and points in the paint to extend their lead 67-45 heading into the fourth quarter.

Mascarenas scored Española’s first eight points of the fourth quarter going 6-of-6 from the free-throw line and sinking a layup. The two teams raced up-and-down the court and put a combined 59 points in the scorebook in the final eight minutes of game time.

After sinking just 2-of-9 free throws in the first quarter, Española made 27-of its next 31 charity tosses

Española will get a week off before hosting the District 2-5A tournament championship game Saturday. With the roll that the Sundevils have been on in their last four games, the challenge is to maintain that level of play and intensity during the layoff.

“Just stay focused and stay humble,” Trujillo said. “Work on the little things like rebounding and communication on defense. Keep working hard. That’s most important during this stretch.”

Defense has been a catalyst for the Sundevils and with their depth they are able to maintain that intensity throughout the game, making their opponents work for every point.

“Defense is number one every day,” Fernandez said. “Every day coach gets on us and everybody that comes inis ready to play defense. Wave after wave. Coach does a great job of making us stay humble.”

Coach Branch knows that in two weeks, it will be crunch time and there cannot be a lapse in the Sundevils’ intensity or concentration.

“Keep them focused,” Coach Branch said. “They can’t become complacent or satisfied. Now all it takes is one (loss) and you’re done.”

Dancers from Moving Arts Española performed at halftime in front of a big crowd of basketball fans Feb. 17 at Edward Medina Gym. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post