Demons, 2 others tie for 1st in district
Two was greater than three, because it was quality that mattered Tuesday night.
Facing hot-shooting Santa Fe High, the Albuquerque Manzano Monarchs tried a unique approach — they let the Demons fire away from deep. It played to Manzano’s advantage for most of the District 5-5A game in Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium, as Santa Fe High was a paltry 3-for-23 from 3-point range.
The Monarchs, on the other hand, only hit two triples on the night.
But when Jack Blankenship banked in a 3 with 1:38 left in the game, it proved to be vital toward earning the Monarchs their first district victory with a 44-41 win. Along with Albuquerque Sandia’s 61-60 win over Capital on the Southside of town and Albuquerque High’s 69-66 win over Rio Grande, the Demons, Matadors and Bulldogs are tied for first place at 2-1 in 5-5A.
Manzano was simply trying to regain its composure after an 0-2 start in district play, and composure was the key element down the stretch. With Santa Fe High (15-4 overall) holding a 39-36 lead with less then 4 minutes to go in the game, Monarchs head coach Dominick Romero talked to his team about it during a timeout.
“Coach had a good timeout, talking about focus,” Blankenship said. “We can’t give this up. I was just thinking about not giving this up, finish the game and go strong.”
And that’s just what Blankenship did. He tied the score at 39-all with a three-point play off a short jumper at the 2:21 mark. On the next Manzano possession, the 6-foot-4 senior banked in a 3 with 1:38 left to give the Monarchs a 42-39 edge. Demons senior guard Antonio Lovato banked in a shot off the glass with 1:03 left to cut the margin to one, then Santa Fe High cut the break it needed when Tyler Allen missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 24.9 seconds to go.
That’s when Blankenship came through again, as he blocked Derek Carlton’s hook shot with 10 seconds left and James Sandoval came up with the rebound and was fouled.
He knocked down the pair for a 44-41 lead and Lovato’s 25-footer at the buzzer was off to the left.
“It was a great defensive effort the whole night,” said Manzano head coach Dominick Romero. “They’re a great-shooting team, and I know they were cold tonight and we were there to rebound. I felt that our length maybe bothered them a little bit.”
Lovato’s shot was the last of a 3-for-22 performance from the perimeter, which was the antithesis of the previous two games in which the Demons hit 23 3s in wins over the Bulldogs and Matadors.
Zack Cole, Santa Fe High’s head coach, offered no apologies for the poor shooting night.
“That’s what we do,” Cole said. “Manzano’s big, so we can’t get a lot of offensive rebounds. They outrebounded us by quite a bit in the first half. So it was a perfect storm as far as it not going our way.”
That was the case for the entire first half for the Demons. After knocking down two of their first four shots to grab a 4-0 lead, they missed 22 of their next 25 attempts from the field and only shot two free throws. Manzano (9-8, 1-2) mixed up a man-to-man defense with a 2-3 zone — which seemed to be the wrong defense to run against a team full of shooters. The Demons, though, missed their first seven beyond the arc and were 1 for their first 13 before Cody Garcia hit a 3 to end the half to make it 24-13, Monarchs.
“Playing against Sandia [a 60-46 loss on Jan. 22], they used a long, lanky 2-3 to pressure us,” Blankenship said. “So we wanted to keep them out of the paint and limit their drive-and-kicks, because that’s what they like to do.”
Santa Fe High never really found its rhythm until it was almost too late. The Monarchs hit their first four shots of the second half, and when Allen scored on a breakaway layup with 4:53 left in the third, the lead ballooned to 32-17. Just when things were at their bleakest, the Demons caught fire, forcing seven turnovers and hitting 7 of 9 from the field to fashion a 17-0 run that ended with Cruz Martinez’s 12-foot jumper with 7:39 left in the game for a 33-32 lead.
When Martinez knocked in a baseline floater at the 5-minute mark, the Demons had their biggest lead of the night.
“We woke up in the second half, but we didn’t really wake up until they gapped it even more,” Cole said. “I just think we could have woken up a little bit sooner, that way, we’re not up one or we’re even. Then, we could be up six, seven and then we can control the game easier.”
It was another example of quantity not overcoming quality.