Demons Trample Jaguars at Home

Louis Herndon, Author

A highly anticipated bout between the Santa Fe High Demons and Capital High Jaguars fell convincingly in favor of the Demons as they handled the undersized Jaguars on the defensive end in a 71-55 victory. The victory extended their six-game win streak and secured the top spot in district five of 5A (4-0).  

The Demons are set to continue their tear through the district this week against Rio Grande High (away) on Wed., Feb. 1, and Albuquerque High (at home) on Sat., Feb. 4.

The buzz around this district game is only the most recent episode in the long story of this crosstown rivalry, but this season it has been further amplified by the pride each school community feels about their team’s equally promising 12-7 records. Further, the two teams play a remarkably similar uptempo style of basketball (see “Demon Boys’ Basketball: Next Man Up”) and are constantly trying to prove who does it better.

These elements were certainly in evidence in the Toby Roybal Memorial Gym as the attendance was upwards of 1,100, the highest it’s been in years.

Both teams punch above their weight, but the Demons proved to be a weight class above the Jaguars on Saturday.

Other than an early display of matching ferocity from the Jaguars where they managed to trade punches with the Demons in the opening minutes, and a third quarter scare when the lead dwindled down to four, the home team maintained a relatively comfortable lead through all four quarters.

The half-court defense essentially won the game for the Demons. When playing the crafty Jaguars, there is a general expectation of transition lay-ins and easy fastbreak points. To minimize this effect, the Demons mostly refrained from their typical full court press and instead focused on the half-court defense. 

While their devotion to the high half-court trap flustered Capital guards and decalibrated their quick drive and kick system, the Demons’ typical 2-3 zone set-up posed an impenetrable blockade that the Jaguars failed to crack time and time again. The seemingly packed-in defensive scheme acted as a web of rotations and closeouts, contributing to flurries of forced turnovers. 

Capital guards would wander aimlessly into the lane past the front line of defense, where they would be immediately swarmed by multiple Demon defenders. This process played on repeat from start to finish as the Jaguars struggled to either finish over the larger Demon frontcourt personnel or score from the perimeter.

Despite both teams forcing the same number of turnovers (15), the Demons capitalized on the opportunities to a much greater degree. The Demons converted their forced turnover opportunities into 21 points, while the Jaguars were only able to squeeze out 8 from the same number of opportunities. 

It’s not something said often about the Demons, but the team’s size and rebounding ability was an irreplaceable asset for them on Saturday. The Demons dominated the boards, securing 19 rebounds to just 9 from the Jaguars. 

After scrapping their way back into the game in the final minutes of the first half, the Jaguars only trailed by six, a score which did not properly reflect how well the Demons had controlled the pace of play in the first half. The halftime lead was instantaneously cut down to four points after Capital’s Izaya Sanchez-Valencia picked off the inbounds pass to start the third quarter and took it to the rack for an easy two.

Capital returned from the locker room with rejuvenated intensity after pulling within four points, just a bucket away from making it interesting. 

The following stretch of the third quarter held a standard of intensity that these two teams could only achieve against each other. A sequence of chaotic possessions followed, as it felt like the next points would dictate the game. 

The Jaguars rested on the brink of a breakthrough basket when Santa Fe High’s junior guard Lukas Turner drained a deep wing three to crack the ice with 6:34 to go in the third. 

Lukas’s three gave his teammates the confidence and momentum they needed to persist defensively and conserve their third-quarter lead. 

Including the steal that led to the shot from behind the arc, the Demons forced four straight turnovers, which were directly converted into seven easy points in transition. The Jaguars took a desperation timeout down 41-30 with 5:18 left in the third, only for the Demons to scavenge for a fifth straight turnover off of the break, setting up Lukas to respond with a vicious step-back triple to cap off a 10-0 run for the Demons. 

The Demons’ defense then clamped down into its most unforgiving form, trapping Capital players, closing lanes, and picking passes on their way to searing off the Jaguars’ offense in seven straight possessions. Santa Fe High forced 10 of their 15 total turnovers in the third quarter. 

Lukas caught the hot hand in the third, capping off his 12-point quarter with a trip to the charity stripe where he sank both, on the way to his 28-point performance.

The shot-making abilities from senior Santi Montoya bailed out the team on a few stagnant possessions as he found a rhythm on his way to a 16-point game. Robert Martinez’s height advantage was also valuable to the team as he brought in a few key offensive rebounds and had 11 points of his own on the game. 

Coach Zack Cole called a timeout with one minute left in the third to remind his team to be mindful of the pace of play. “We gotta secure rebounds,” he shouted over the “start the bus” chants from Demon fans. “That’s more important than fast breaks to us right now.”

Entering the fourth quarter with a comfortable 12-point lead, the Demons closed out the game with composure, despite being tested by the ferocity of Capital’s full-court press in the fourth quarter. 

Along with placing themselves on top of district standings, the Demons have asserted themselves as the best high school basketball team in the city by beating Capital and St. Michael’s by a combined 38 points in their last two matchups. 

The Demons are set to rematch district opponent Rio Grande on Feb. 1, whom they narrowly lost to earlier in the season. If they win on Wednesday, the Demons will reach the halfway point of district competition as an undefeated powerhouse when they face Albuquerque High at home on Saturday.

Now on a six-game win streak, the Demons have earned themselves a reputation as a legitimate state contender, striking a rhythm at a dangerous time. The Boys Varsity Basketball schedule, along with all other sports schedules, can be accessed through the Demon Tattler home page. Click on the rotating link at the top of the site.