Armed with a 46-37 lead and 71 seconds to close out its first Capital City Invitational championship in eight years, Capital needed every second to preserve a 49-47 win over St. Michael’s in Santa Fe High’s Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium.
On one hand, the Jaguars beat the reigning Class AAA champions in the Horsemen. However, they had to withstand a 10-3 run by St. Michael’s and a desperation steal and shot by Gabe Pino under the Horsemen basket with :00.6 left to improve to 8-1.
But the Jaguars are accustomed to this, and seemed no worse for wear after another nail-biter.
“It got crazy over there,” said Mikey Lopez, Capital senior post. “We had a nice little lead, but we had a couple of turnovers. But we know how to finish games.”
Lopez can take some credit for that. With the Horsemen denying the ball to Capital guard Christian Martinez on every possession during the final 3 minutes, someone else had to step up. Lopez did his part by hitting four of six free throws down the stretch.
And he also grabbed a pair of rebounds in the final 30 seconds as St. Michael’s chipped away at the lead.
Yet, Lopez also contributed to Capital’s inability to milk the clock and make smart decisions over the final five minutes. He fired up an ill-advised 3-pointer after a Derrick Chavez drive gave the Jaguars a 41-33 lead.
Chavez also fired up a 3 that missed, and St. Michael’s (3-1) got to within 41-36 by hitting 3 of 4 from the line. Then Capital rode a roller-coaster possession with Taylor Martinez.
The 6-foot-5 post, who played despite an injured left ankle, missed a short jumper in the paint, then three tap-in tries.
After his third miss, Chavez swooped in for the offensive board and fed the big man again, and this time he laid it in off the glass for 43-36 with 3:05 left.
By that point, Capital head coach Mark Senteney implored the Jaguars to be smart.
“During the timeouts, I wrote down ‘score/clock/situation,’ ” Senteney said. “Absolutely no 3s. It had to be a layup and Free Throw 101. I don’t know what else I gotta do.”
St. Michael’s did, and it turned up the pressure. After Christian Martinez hit two free throws for 46-37 with 1:11 to go, the Horsemen forced three straight turnovers.
It resulted in a 3 by Estevan Sandoval, a free throw by Daniel Ortega and a three-point play from Jeff Groenewold for a 46-44 score with :31.1 remaining.
After a Christian Martinez miss, Groenewold was open for a corner 3, but it hit the side of the rim and Martinez grabbed the board.
“It was a good shot he took,” said Ron Geyer, Horsemen head coach. “He was wide open and it was a good look. I thought it was good shot selection.”
Like any good drama, that was the climax. The rest was epilogue.
Santa Fe Preparatory 65, Pueblo (Colo.) Central 64
The Blue Griffins (9-2) rallied from a 23-12 deficit in the second quarter, but didn’t take the lead until D.J. Casados and Diego Perea hit a pair of 3s for a 60-59 lead with 2 minutes left. Francis Castillo y Mulert hit another triple with :50 left for 65-61.
Casados finished with 17 points and earned all-tournament honors, as did William Lenfestey. He scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth to help Prep to a third-place finish.
Santa Fe High 44, Anthony Gadsden 39 (OT)
The Demons (4-5) outscored the Panthers 7-2 in overtime to take fifth place in their own tournament.
Elliott Nicholas scored four of the points in the extra period and 12 of his team-high 16 came after the third quarter in a nip-and-tuck battle.
Tres Chaires scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half for Santa Fe High.
West Las Vegas 62, Santa Fe High JV 46
The Dons (3-4) needed a 25-7 outburst in the fourth quarter to overcome a 39-37 junior Demons’ lead for seventh place in the tournament.
Eighth-grader D.J. Bustos led the way with 10 points in the quarter to account for all of his scoring. Jose Montano had 12 points for the Dons, and Pancho Caro led the way with 14.
Isaiah Ortega and Jalen Maestas led the Santa Fe High JV with 11 points each.