Two former district foes found themselves locked in a tight game in the second half and both were in need of a spark plug.
That’s when Seth Arroyos came through and delivered for Capital High School.
The Jaguar junior awoke in the final two quarters and scored all of his game-high 21 points to help Capital prevail over Española Valley High School on the road, 64-59, Jan. 19 at Edward Medina Gymnasium. It Was the first meeting between the teams as non-district opponents after competing in the same district for the past 23 years.
Arroyos not only scored often in the final 16 minutes, but he came through for the Jaguars (12-3) when they needed it most, and it was his two big buckets in the final two minutes that helped seal the victory.
Capital led 57-55 with two minutes remaining in the game and had only made two field goals in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, but Arroyos helped change that when he drove baseline and finished home an acrobatic floater across the lane to extend the Jaguars lead to four, 59-55, with 1:45 left.
Ryan Trujillo — who had a team-high 17 points for the Sundevils (9-8) — tried his best to extend the game down the stretch. He went mono e mono with Arroyos for the next three possessions: first converting a put back off an offensive rebound and then knocking down two free throws from the charity stripe after Arroyos’ last basket of the game put Capital back up, 61-57, with 1:07 left.
Trujillo scored 10 of his 17 points in the quarter but would foul out in the last minute by picking up two fouls in a 10-second span.
Following his departure, Capital nearly handed away their lead after T.J. Sanchez threw away the inbounds pass at half court. Española’s Justino Rascon corralled the loose ball and rallied toward the Sundevils’ basket but was unable to tie the game as his layup attempt – like so many others throughout the game – rimmed in-and-out, allowing Capital to withstand the final 34 seconds to leave the Valley victorious.
“To get a win against an opponent like Española, especially at their home (is always hard to do),” Capital head coach Ben Gomez said. “They’re a talented group, they can play basketball and they love basketball. So, anytime you play Española, it’s going to be a grind out game, if you’re lucky.”
The Jaguars grinded it out early and often to start the game, and their length played a huge part on defense as they continually frustrated Española with several blocked shots, many which came not just at the rim, but also out near the perimeter on jump shots.
That kind of defensive effort from Capital resurfaced in the fourth quarter down the stretch and played a huge part in the victory.
“It was not only their length, but it was their quickness,” Española assistant coach Brian Martinez said after the game while filling in to address media members for head coach James Branch – who had to make a quick exit to drive to Mora. “Capital is a quick team and they’re really good at closing out on shooters. You think you’re open a couple times out on those corners and yet they get out there and tip the ball.”
The superb close-out defense helped the Jaguars build a 12-2 lead midway through the first quarter, however, the Sundevils kept their composure and ended the quarter on a 13-7 run to decrease the margin to four, 19-15, after the first eight minutes.
Española carried over that momentum into the second quarter and after falling behind 12-2, they outscored Capital 19-16 from that point forward to take a 31-28 halftime lead.
“I was proud of the way they came back,” Martinez said. “We called a quick timeout and told them, ‘Hey, let’s start playing ball and having fun.’ When they do that, they’re a completely different team.”
Capital took a 50-44 lead into the fourth quarter, and just like the first, the Jaguars outscored Española 19-15 in the fourth.
The Sundevils shot 38 percent (8-of-21) from the field in the second half and while the Jaguars took the same 21 attempts, they made 12, with eight of them credited to Arroyos.
Española closed out non-district play with two close, tough losses to Gallup High School and Capital — two teams that are among the best in the state in their respected classifications (Gallup ranked first in Class 4A). Through their first 17 games, the Sundevils have only faced two teams from New Mexico (Sandia Prep and Belen) with losing records, while the other two teams were out-of-state opponents.
They will matchup with their third such team within state boundaries when they travel to rival Pojoaque Valley High School to tip off play in District 2-4A at 7 p.m., Thursday (1/24) at Ben Lujan Gymnasium. The Elks (5-12) are currently on a five-game losing streak.