Same place, same round, same situation.
But oh my, what a different result.
Despite a scoreless third quarter, the Sundevils (23-9) grabbed a berth in the title game with a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback. The Sundevils went on a 12-2 run in the final minutes and ousted the defending state champion-Hawks (23-9) 44-39.
The Sundevils will face the winner of Thursday’s late semifinal game, Capital of Santa Fe, in Saturday’s 2 p.m. championship game.
A year ago, Española Valley was coming off a one-point win in the quarterfinals and took on Centennial in the semifinals of Class 5A state tournament in the Pit.
On Thursday, the Sundevils were again coming off a thrilling one-point victory in the quarterfinals — having beaten Bernalillo 50-49 on Wednesday — and again faced Centennial in Friday’s semifinals.
A year ago, the Hawks demolished the Sundevils 80-53 in the semifinals.
“I’m not going to lie. That one really hurt. That left an itch that I really needed to scratch,” said Española Valley head coach Richard Martinez. “That was a long walk going up that ramp after the game.”
On Thursday, that walk up the ramp was a flat-out sprint for Martinez and his Sundevils — but not before they were simply flat most of the game.
EV led 8-5 after the first quarter and 22-20 at the half, but was just 5-of-15 from the floor and 2-of-8 from 3-point range.
And then it got really ugly.
The Hawks went into a full-court press to open the third quarter, and the Sundevils were helpless. They finished the period 0-for-7 from the floor with six turnovers and never got to the foul line.
Meanwhile, Centennial’s Alex Baez had six of his team-high 11 points in the period — which ended with the Hawks in front 28-22.
Down 30-22, the Sundevils got a free throw from James Archuleta, then a jumper from Marcos Flores with 6:30 left in the game for the team’s first field goal of the second half. A quick Centennial turnover and the Sundevils’ Elias Archuleta ripped a 3 point to ignite the estimated crowd of 7,000 — nearly all Española Valley fans — and make it 30-28 with just more than five minutes left.
The Sundevils finally got back in front when James Archuleta hit a bank shot with 2:11 left to make it 36-35 before the Hawks hit a pair of free throws.
Marcos Flores scored on a drive with 1:24 remaining, then made one of two free throws with 28 seconds left to give Española a 39-37 advantage.
Flores then made the play of the game.
“I saw that he (the player receiving the inbounds) was trying to get a running start, so he could get down the floor as fast as he could,” Flores said. “I ran in and put a little pressure, and he got a little shaken up and it bounced off his leg.”
The pressure caused a Hawk turnover on the inbounds and James Archuleta followed with an inbounds layup to finish it.
“After that turnover, I knew Richard was going to come up with something spectacular, and he did with that play,” Flores said.
Flores had a game-high 17 points while teammate Azaziah Salazar had eight points and a game-high seven rebounds.
— Mark Smith
NO. 5 ESPAÑOLA VALLEY 44, NO. 8 CENTENNIAL 39
CENTENNIAL (23-9): Tennessee Owens 7, Cesar Molina 8, Darren Smith 2, Marcell McCaughan 1, Matt Monroy 2, Alez Baez 13, Jayson Benusa 4, Zane Cunico 2. Totals: 13-38-FG 11-18-FT 49.
ESPAÑOLA VALLEY (23-9): Elias Archuleta 6, JP Sena 2, Marcos Flores 17, Joshua Salazar 3, Christian Fernandez 3, Azaziah Salazar 8, James Archuleta 5. Totals: 11-32-FG 19-25-FT 44.
Centennial 5 15 8 11 — 39
Española Valley 8 14 22 39 — 44
3-point goals: C, 2-14 (Owens, Molina); EV, 3-13 (E. Archuleta 2, J. Salazar). Total fouls: C 21, EV 19. Fouled out: C, Baez.