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Boys 5A semifinal: Española Valley turns tables on Centennial

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


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.


 No. 3 Capital 52, No. 2 Grants 46: At the Pit, Eric Coca scored 21 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, leading Capital to a 52-46 win and a spot in the 5A state title game.
“I give credit to the coaching staff. They give me tips like the three C’s: cool, calm and collective,” Coca said of his performance. “They give me motivation to believe in myself.”
Coca set the tone for Capital (27-4) with his team’s first two buckets and paced the Jaguars to a 22-21 lead at the break.
In what was a back-and-forth first half, the two teams each shot 32 percent from the field, but the Jaguars converted on 7 of 10 free throws, while Grants attempted zero.
The ability to get to the rim was certainly in Capital coach Ben Gomez’s game-plan:
“We wanted to attack the rim because we knew if we just settled for the shot, it was going to play into their hands,” he said.
Capital had its biggest run of the game, a 7-0-spurt midway through the third quarter, giving the Jaguars a 32-27 advantage.
They then stretched that lead to 48-37 with 2:55 remaining in the game, an advantage that proved to be too much for Grants (25-4) to claw back from.
“We just got caught in the moment. We are used to being ahead going into the fourth quarter,” said Pirates senior Bradley Hatten. “I think it got to us and took our pride away.”
As for what’s next in Saturday’s Class 5A final, “When you play Española, you better be ready to play,” Gomez said. “They’re physical, they’re smart, they’re strong and they’re not going to give up.”
 — Phillip A. Lopez
No. 3 Capital 52, No. 2 Grants 46
Capital (27-4): Augustine Larranaga 8, Jeremy Anaya 8, Jerome Arroyos 5, Eric Coca 21, Kevin Brown 2, Isaiah Brooks 5, Bryan Garcia 1, Anthony Salcido 2.
Grants (25-4): Michael Anzures 10, Matt Vail 5, Mike Chambers 5, Armando Ramirez 2, Gregory Harris 2, Richie Lucero 10, AJ Madrid 3, Bradley Hatten 9.
Capital        7 15 13 17  — 52
Grants        10 11 9 16 — 46
3-point goals: C 3 (Coca 2, Brooks 1); G 5 (Anzures 2, Vail 1, Chambers 1, Madrid 1). Total fouls: C 11; G 22. Fouled out: G, Vail