While the team monikers are the St. Michael’s Horsemen and the Capital Jaguars, their characteristics better fit the other descriptions.
There are the Horsemen, whose lizard-like ability to absorb the loss of a key component was on display Friday.
After losing senior forward Matt Barela for the season with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, St. Michael’s relied on depth to get past Pueblo (Colo.) Central 44-29 in a semifinal of the 52nd Capital City Invitational in Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium.
Contrast that with Capital, which used its size and muscle to help thump Santa Fe Preparatory 69-48 in the other semifinal matchup.
However, the Jaguars (7-1) will deal with their own loss, albeit temporary.
Senior center Taylor Martinez likely will miss the championship because of a sprained right ankle he suffered in the second half against the Blue Griffins.
But that is a significant loss, because Capital’s bench does not run as deep as the one for the Horsemen.
That depth, though, was tested by the Wildcats. Justin Flores, the 6-3 junior post, sat on the bench for most of the second half with four fouls, and another big, Isaiah Dominguez, missed the second half with an injury.
Still, St. Michael’s (3-0) didn’t back down, as evidenced by its paltry 11-for-27 from the free-throw line. Horsemen head coach Ron Geyer focused more on one part of that statistic.
“What’s great is that we got to the line 27 times,” Geyer said. “We’re not proud of the 11-for-27. We work on it every day. That needs to improve.”
So does the ball handling. St. Michael’s committed 16 turnovers overall, and four of them came in the second quarter when Pueblo Central trimmed a 14-6 deficit late in the opening quarter to 18-15.
The Horsemen scored but one Kameron Romero free throw in the second quarter, and that came with :04 left before the half.
Chalk part of that to life after Barela.
“Matt was a huge part of our team, and we’re going to miss him,” said Romero, who finished with a team-high 10 points. “But we got these players behind us. We got a lot of people who can step up.”
And they did. Five players accounted for six third-quarter baskets as the Horsemen went on a 14-4 spurt to take a 32-21 lead on Jeff Groenewold’s reverse layup with a second left.
As for Capital, it struck the right balance between aggressiveness and finding good looks against Prep, particularly in the second quarter.
The Jaguars went 5-for-6 from the line, hit three 3-pointers and were 6-for-11 from the field to turn a 14-8 lead into a 36-16 advantage that was capped by Christian Martinez’s 3 at the buzzer.
The senior guard was a welcome sight for the Jaguars after missing a game due to an ejection from last weekend’s Al Armendariz Classic championship.
“It felt good,” said Christian Martinez, who finished with 24 points, 17 in the second half. “I wanted to come out strong and show people that I am here to play and it was my fault I got thrown out of the game. That will never happen again.”
Backing up the guard was senior forward Mikey Lopez, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Blue Griffins could not muscle the 6-3 forward out of the paint.
Santa Fe High 60, West Las Vegas 54
In a family turf war, David Rodriguez’s Demons got the best of brother Ernie Rodriguez’s Dons to advance to the fifth-place game.
West Las Vegas crept to within 49-45 after the third quarter, but the Demons (3-5) finished the game on a 13-9 run.
Tres Chaires scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half for the Demons, while Elliott Nicholas had 11.
Pancho Caro’s 25 points led the Dons (2-4), while Joe Ortiz added 24.
Gadsden 45, Santa Fe High JV 32
The Panthers built a 31-12 lead after three quarters before taking the foot off the gas pedal and cruising to the win.
Santa Fe High’s JV scored 20 points in the fourth to close the gap Willy Contreras and Frankie Jaurequi led Gadsden with eight points, while Cisco Gonzales paced the junior Demons with six.