ALBUQUERQUE — Better than ever?
If the returns from this weekend’s Sundevil Invitational are any indication, the answer may be a resounding yes.
We’re talking about the Santa Fe High girls basketball team. On Saturday night, the Demonettes won their 12th straight game by crushing tournament host Albuquerque Sandia Preparatory, 75-40, in the championship game of the eight-team, three-day tournament.
The Demonettes’ margin of victory in the event was 32.1 points per game, and their point differential grew each game through the tournament. Saturday’s contest ended with the clock running thanks to the 35-point mercy rule.
Afterward, the team carted off the handsome first-place trophy, the giant posterboard showing the tournament bracket — and one more reason to believe that this might be Santa Fe High’s year.
“Well,” began Demonettes head coach Elmer Chavez, “We were undefeated at this time last year, and I can honestly say that we’re better now than we were then. No question about it.”
Center Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage led Santa Fe High in scoring all three games. Not surprisingly, she was named the event’s most valuable player. Joining her on the first team were guards Kayla Herrera and Jackie Martinez. The trio combined for 49 points in Saturday’s game; Lozada-Cabbage leading the way with a game-high 24.
If people were looking for signs, the 6-foot-2 junior provided plenty of those in the early going against the Lady Sundevils. Before either team had scored a single point, she had grabbed five rebounds; three of them at the offensive end. She had also blocked a shot.
She had seven points in the first quarter, helping the Demonettes assume an 11-point lead before the end of the period. Never trailing in the game, Santa Fe High led 33-21 at halftime, and then blew the game wide open in the third quarter by using a 19-5 run to open a commanding 55-32 lead.
The margin quickly mushroomed more than 30 points in the fourth quarter as Chavez used a revolving door of substitutes in the waning moments.
Asked if this team was indeed better than last year’s, Lozada-Cabbage agreed with her coach.
“We work harder and, really, most of us have been playing on the same team since we were in sixth grade,” she said. “We know each other so good, plus we learned a lot from what happened last year.”
Last year, of course, the Demonettes went back and forth with Española Valley in District 2AAAA before reaching the Class AAAA state semifinals in The Pit. Were it not for a few missed shots, they may very well have wound up playing for a state title.
That’s something that drives this club, Lozada-Cabbage said.
“We don’t want to have what happened to us last year happen again,” she said. “We learned from that. We’re hungry.”
Santa Fe High certainly played like a hungry team during Sandia Prep’s tournament. Despite the absence of any real state-level competition, the Demonettes never let off the accelerator.
“I’m not happy with the way we played the first half [Saturday], but it’s something we can take away from this and work on as we get better and better,” Chavez said.
Like any team hoping to test its mettle, the Demonettes will do that that the coming weeks. They will host AAAAA perennial power Albuquerque Sandia next Wednesday and meet Sandia Prep again the following night. After that is the district opener at Española Valley.
“As a team, you should want games like that,” Chavez said.
As a fan, maybe it’s games like that that will convince any doubters that Chavez’s club is a real contender.