Elefio Benavidez goes against the grain when it comes to leading the point guard for the Santa Fe High Demons.
For the past four years, the Demons have relied on accurate point guards who worked in the construct of head coach Zack Cole’s offensive system. However, Benavidez is much more of the traditional pass first guard who has more of the thrill of seeing good ball movement than knocking down a 3 ball.
His sticky personality fits perfectly with a selfless group of demons who improved to 10-1 after an 84-46 victory Tuesday night over Albuquerque Sandia Prep in the opening round of the Jaelene Berger Holiday Hoops Classic at Rio Rancho.
Santa Fe High will play Albuquerque Hope Christian in the semi-finals on Wednesday at 7pm.
Benavidez said he learned a lot about how to run the point from 2021 alumni Cruz Martinez and Cody Garcia, as well as from 2019 Antonio Lovato, who, like Benavidez, was a three-year-old college player.
“They showed me how to take responsibility and make sure everything is going right and everyone is where they should be,” said Benavidez. “Now that you are not here, I really have to take responsibility.”
Luke Turner of Santa Fe High jumps to take a shot during Tuesday’s game against Sandia Prep at Rio Rancho High School.
But Benavidez prefers to show how to take responsibility than to bring it into being. However, he showed that he is quite ready to give the team his opinion. After losing their first game of the season in Rio Rancho Cleveland on December 21, Santa Fe High spoke to the team in the locker room about how to slow down when the opposition started running.
The Demons struggled with it in the third quarter when Cleveland used a pair of 11-0 runs to turn a 32:16 halftime deficit into a 50:47 lead.
“That’s exactly what we want from him and the message he is supposed to convey to his teammates,” said Cole. “Point guards, you have to be trainers on the ground somehow. He falls into that role for us, and he’s talented. He’s got speed, he can shoot, he can drive past guys and he can keep watch. “
Against the Sundevils (3-5) he led the attack in a 21-5 run that sealed the result in the first half. Sandia Prep took advantage of this high-low game to build an 11-9 lead on Alex Jefferies’ layup in the low post with 2:45 remainder in the first quarter.
The Demons had only enforced one turnover at the time, and Benavidez said the Demons were sluggish.
“We started playing at their pace instead of playing them at ours,” said Benavidez.
PJ Lovato of Santa Fe High looks for an opening during Tuesday’s game against Sandia Prep at Rio Rancho High School.
That changed after Cole called for a break. Santa Fe High forced four of the next five possession of the ball to lose the ball and Benavidez hit a 3-pointer with 2:20 remainder in the quarter to give his team a 12:11 lead and start the decisive run.
The demons hit nine of their next 10 shots, building a 30-16 lead.
Santa Fe High executive PJ Lovato said Benavidez’s value isn’t always on the statistics sheet, but he’s no less important than being a 20-point scorer.
Benavidez ended up with seven points and two rebounds, but it’s not about the points he scores. It’s the points that come from his selfless game.
“In the past we’ve always had these aggressive goalscorers,” said Lovato. “Lef is a pass-first guy and our offensive creates more because we move the ball so much. It’s kind of good because [the ball] don’t stay with one guy and somehow get offended. “
Española Valley 56, El Paso Socorro 44
The Sundevils looked like they were about to move into a semi-final match against hosts Rams, building a lead at 18 before heading to the locker room at 33:20 at halftime.
The Bulldogs beat Española (11-2) 19-8 in the third quarter to get into the fourth quarter within 41:39. Gabe Martinez, the Sundevils head coach, said defensive intensity made all the difference in the second half: Socorro (8-6) had it; not his team.
“I thought our defense was lackluster,” said Martinez. “There was an eight-minute phase in which our defense was lackluster at best. We weren’t patient on the offensive. We tried to get the first or second look and shoot. “
The Sundevils got the news in the fourth quarter and only held Socorro at five points the rest of the way. Meanwhile, 6-foot-6 forward Melaki Jones scored seven of his 14 points in the final 8 minutes to lead the 15-5 run.
Española will play Rio Rancho in the semifinals at 5 p.m.