The Española Valley Sundevils held strong early, but the wheels came off in the second half as they fell 72-47 to number 2-seeded Gallup.
“Learn and grow,” Española coach Gabe Martinez told his team after the game. “I told them, ‘You can do two things with this. You can allow it to affect you in a negative way, or you can use it as motivation and start doing things to hopefully in the future make it a different outcome.’”
It was a slugfest early on with both teams strong on defense. The number 7-seeded Sundevils held Gallup, a team that scored 90 points in its first-round game, to just 13 in the first quarter. But the offense never manifested for Española.
Española tried to score in the paint and from the free-throw line, but when they fell behind early it was clear that Gallup was too strong. Both teams shot below 30 percent in the first half, and the Sundevils were within eight points at halftime.
But in the second half it was 27 percent for Española and 52 percent for Gallup. Española’s starters combined to shoot 5-for-36 from the field.
“We had a bad game,” Martinez summarized. “There’s no scientific answer for it, but we had a bad game.”
Española ends a strong season under first-year coach Martinez, finishing with an 18-10 record. The Sundevils reached the state quarterfinals after a home upset last year in the first round. None of the current Sundevils were on the 2017-18 team that made the state finals. But the youth of the team will be a strength going forward, with just two seniors leaving.
“About 80 percent of our team are sophomores,” Martinez said. “So, I’m going to have a majority of those guys for the next two years. Which is a beautiful thing.”