Throw records out the window. At least that’s what Albuquerque High boys basketball coach Ron Garcia thinks.
The Bulldogs avenged a 25-point loss to Santa Fe from 2½ weeks ago and maintained at least a share of first place in District 5-5A by beating the Demons 63-58 on Friday night.
“How about that?” Garcia said about his team’s first-place district standing, despite a 7-13 overall record. “We had a chance to win a lot of those games, but the deficit is our lack of size. We have trouble rebounding, but these kids battled, stayed together, and hung in there tonight.”
Albuquerque High’s dazzling junior guard, Jude Tapia, scored a game-high 25 points, but it was his passing in the final minute that gave the Bulldogs — who share first in 5-5A with Manzano at 4-2 — the lead for good.
After Santa Fe’s Christian Kavanaugh hit one of two free throws to give his club a 58-57 lead with just over a minute to play, the Bulldogs brought the ball up against the Demons’ pressure defense.
Normally an integral part of his team’s press-breaker, Tapia didn’t touch the ball until the ball was firmly in his team’s front court.
Tapia initiated the offense and shoveled a spot-on underhand pass to Devin Serrano on the right wing. Serrano buried the go-ahead 3 for the 60-58 lead with 48 seconds to play.
“I was trying to read the play, and I was going to shoot it, or if someone helped off on me, I would hit the open man,” said Tapia, who added seven assists. “(The open man) happened to be Devin. He’s one of the best shooters in the state, and he knocked it down.”
Santa Fe still had ample time for the tying or go-ahead bucket, but a 15-foot jumper from Antonio Lovato was off the mark.
In the loose-ball scramble, Tapia picked up the ball, and he was awarded two free throws — and the Bulldogs maintained possession — when an intentional foul was called on Santa Fe.
Tapia made his free throws with 5.3 seconds left to ice the victory.
“We still have to go to Manzano … and we have a lot of big games ahead of us,” Garcia said. “But I like our chances. Of all the teams I’ve ever coached, I really want this team to have some success down the stretch.”
Lovato led Santa Fe (16-6, 3-3) with 17 points. Cruz Martinez added 14 points.
Serrano finished with 18 points for AHS.
Manzano remained tied for first place in the district by virtue of its 60-57 victory over Sandia on Friday night. Rio Grande and Santa Fe are tied for third place at 3-3; the Ravens defeated Capital on Friday.
— Pat Newell
MANZANO 60, SANDIA 57: At Manzano, Tyler Allen had a team-high 21 points, and the Monarchs (12-8, 4-2) won a close battle with the Matadors (8-12, 2-4).
Lucas Jordan had 18 points in the loss for Sandia.
ST. PIUS 51, GRANTS 47: At St. Pius, Jason Arnett scored 19 points to lead the Sartans, who came from behind in the fourth quarter to post a District 5-4A victory. St. Pius is 11-9 overall, 2-3 in district.
GRANTS 47, ST. PIUS 46: In Grants, Angel Valdez’s buzzer beater lifted the unranked Pirates (9-13, 2-2) to an upset District 5-4A victory over the sixth-ranked Sartans (14-6, 3-2).
VOLCANO VISTA 43, CLEVELAND 35: At Cleveland, Class 5A’s sixth-ranked Hawks (17-4, 5-0 in 1-5A) rallied in the second half to beat the ninth-ranked Storm. Jaelyn Bates led Volcano Vista with 16 points.
ATRISCO HERITAGE 33, CIBOLA 16: At Cibola, Jasmin Rivera had 12 points to lead the Jaguars (6-16, 2-3 in 1-5A) past the Cougars (4-18, 0-5).