Riding a bull comes to mind.
Another is the demise of Capital’s boys basketball team’s quest for a district title in a memorable regular season finale on Saturday night.
Leading 57-54 in the waning moments of a 2AAAA showdown against crosstown rival Santa Fe High, the Jaguars had their proverbial feet on the Demons’ throats. They had the ball, the momentum and clock all in their favor.
It all makes the Demons’ improbable 58-57 stunner all the more difficult to explain. They turned two steals off inbounds passes into a pair of layups to pull off the upset, including a buzzer-beating shot from senior Elliot Nicholas after Capital’s Mikey Lopez heaved a wild baseball pass most of the way down the court instead of dumping it off to a teammate right in front of him.
The loss prevented the Jaguars from clinching the district’s regular season championship and the top seed in this week’s 2AAAA tournament. Instead they’ll have to face Bernalillo for a third time in the last four weeks, this time in a one-game playoff on Monday night to determine the top seed.
Bernalillo forced the tiebreaker by beating Española Valley on Saturday. The Spartans and Jaguars split their regular season series with each team winning on its home floor. By rule, the playoff is to be played at a neutral site, and since the district generally makes a profit from its postseason tournament, the best idea was to schedule a rare doubleheader inside Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium.
As the district’s No. 4 seed, Santa Fe High was already scheduled to play No. 5 Los Alamos in the tournament’s first round on Monday. That game has been set for 5:30 while the Capital-Bernalillo game will follow at approximately 7.
A win sends the Demons (12-14) into Tuesday’s second round at No. 3 Española Valley. The winner there travels to the site of the loser between Bernalillo and Capital on Thursday, while the winner of Monday’s tiebreaker will host the 2AAAA championship on Friday.
The Jaguars could have gotten there the easy way by finishing off the win over Santa Fe High. Instead they’ll try to avoid what amounts to a major letdown after it appeared they had things sewn up on Saturday.
All Santa Fe High head coach David Rodriguez could say after the game was that he was happy no one listened to him in the closing seconds.
“I was actually screaming for a timeout after that last turnover but no one heard me,” he said. “I’m glad no one did. I might have ruined that last play.”
That last play saw Lopez’s pass arc over everyone on the court, bounce once and ricochet off the opposite backboard and into Nicholas’ hands. He turned and dribbled all the way back down the floor and hit the game-winner as time expired.
Rodriguez said that the win probably secures an at-large berth to the Class AAAA state tournament for the Demons. A few more this week could bump them up from a presumed 13 or 14 seed to 11 or 12.
Monday’s schedule is the first of a weeklong series of games in district tournaments around the state in every classification. Another tiebreaker will determine 2AAA’s top seed on the boys side as Pojoaque Valley and Taos square off in West Las Vegas’ gym at 6 p.m.
The 2AAA girls tournament heats up Wednesday when Pojoaque Valley hosts the survivor of the first two rounds in the district’s semifinals. The winner there heads to top seed Taos on Friday.
The 2AAA boys championship will be the following night at either Taos or Pojoaque Valley.
The 5AAA tournament goes through Albuquerque Hope Christian on the boys and girls sides. The boys team withstood the three-team race that included defending state champion St. Michael’s and perennial power Sandia Prep. The Hope girls ran the table in the regular season district race, including a sweep of No. 2 Santa Fe Indian School.
Championship games for the boys’ 4A and 2AA tournaments will be Friday. Pecos capped a stellar 24-2 regular season by going undefeated through eight games in 2AA. The Panthers’ main challengers all season have been Santa Fe Prep, the No. 2 seed, and No. 3 Mora.
The Mora girls dominated the 2AA race as much as the Pecos boys did. The Rangerettes await the semifinal winner in Saturday’s championship game at 6:30 p.m.
All district tournament champions qualify automatically for the state tournament while all other teams must await at-large invitations during the seeding and selection process scheduled for the afternoon of March 3.
That state tournament starts March 8 and runs through March 16.