If there is a difference in the Santa Fe
Prep Blue Griffins this year, it’s that they no longer watch Finn Coles do his magic. The 2022 Prep graduate was the vital cog in the Blue Griffins engine last year, to the point that his teammates sometimes stopped playing and simply watched the 6-foot-4 Coles score.
“The thing was, Finn would give you the ball if you were doing what you needed to be doing,” Prep head coach Joe Vigil said. “But the kids would just get caught up in just watching instead of playing.”
Now, it’s their turn to make opponents watch.
It’s a more balanced attack Prep presents, and it showed Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Braves Invitational at Santa Fe Indian School’s Pueblo Pavilion. Even though junior forward Mitch Grover did his best Coles impression in scoring 25 points, the Blue Griffins had eight players score and the ball movement was mostly crisp in a 63-25 win over Laguna-Acoma.
Prep will play District 2-3A rival and tournament host SFIS in a 6:30 pm Friday semifinal. The Braves dominated McCurdy, 53-30, in the final first-round game of the day.
With a host of players 6-foot-2 and taller, the Blue Griffins pounded the ball inside against the smaller Hawks, primarily with Grover as the catalyst. He is not quite the dynamic player Coles was, but he can set the tone with his variety of post moves as he slithers around defenders.
But Grover said he is not alone in carrying the load.
“Van [Anderson, a 6-3 post who had 10 points], so can do it,” Grover said. “With our guards looking for those bigs, that’s always a big part of our game plan.”
Prep hit only one 3-pointer, and that came from guard Kiran Belyeu in the opening minute of the third quarter that gave the Blue Griffins (6-5) a 35-11 lead. It was a steady diet of working the ball into the post or attacking the rim in transition or within the half-court set.
The only struggles the Blue Griffins had came midway through the second quarter when they got sloppy against Laguna-Acoma’s press. The Hawks (3-9) missed their first nine shots and turned the ball over nine times before Niel Kie scored on a drive in the opening seconds of the quarter to make it 16-3.
Then, Laguna-Acoma proceeded to hit its next four shots to creep within 21-9 on Johnny Lucario’s steal and layup with 5:48 left in the quarter. Prep struggled to take care of the ball, as the Hawks forced four turnovers in that stretch.
“That out-of-nowhere pressure kind of hurt us,” prep guard Gabe Cordova said. “We weren’t ready for that. Once we slowed down, we kinda got back into our game.”
Prep finished the quarter and went on a 9-0 run to take a 30-9 lead into the locker room.
Vigil said the Blue Griffins will need to be mindful of the Braves’ pressure and value possession so that they can get the ball into the paint.
“We get a little comfortable sometimes and lose our focus a little bit,” Vigil said. “We talk about that every day in practice, and I know they have a tough day at school. They’re challenged academically and their minds are tired, but I just ask them to give me an hour-and-a-half of focus so we can get our work done and get out of here.”
If Prep can get another strong 90-minute session in against the Braves, its reward might be a spot in the championship game.
SF Indian School 53, McCurdy 30
The Braves (10-4) shot the ball well from the start, which allowed them to dictate the pace with their press. It led to a 15-9 lead after a quarter and 27-15 at the half. The Bobcats struggled to generate consistent offense and never reached double figures in any quarter.
“I told my guys we need to be physical and we need to have quick starts,” said Santa Fe Indian School head coach Jason Abeyta.
Owen Pecos heeded those words and scored 10 points in the opening quarter, on his way to a 19-point performance. Lucas Martinez led the Bobcats (4-8) with 19 points, as well.
McCurdy plays Laguna-Acoma in a consolation semifinal at 11:30 am
Mesa Vista 58, Raton 45
The Trojans (7-6) set the tone to start each half, building a 15-8 lead after a quarter, then holding the Tigers (6-5) to just four points in the third to turn a 37-25 halftime lead into a 49-29 advantage.
Jordan Gallegos led Mesa Vista, which advanced to a semifinal battle with Menaul at 3 pm, had 14 of his 18 points in the first half. Wyatt Berry’s 16 points paced Raton, which plays Moriarty in a consolation semifinal at 8 am
Albuquerque Menaul 63, Moriarty 46
The reigning Class 2A champion Panthers (7-4) were a model of consistency against the Pintos (5-11). They lead 14-10 after a quarter, 32-24 at the half and 45-33 heading into the fourth quarter. They outscored Moriarty 18-13 to wrap up a spot in the semifinals.
Abhishek Yadau led Menaul with 18 points, while Proshaut Chouhan added 17. Jeremy Padilla scored 16 points to lead Moriarty.
SF Indian School 72, Monte del Sol 12
The biggest cheer in the game came when Lady Dragons forward Fernanda Gomez drained a 3 with 2:19 left in the opening quarter. While it only cut the margin to 18-3, it ensured Monte del Sol would not go scoreless. SFIS (13-2) mostly played its reserves, but it still led 26-3 after a quarter and 48-8 at the half to advance to a semifinal matchup against Cuba at 8:15 pm
Ten Lady Braves recorded points, with Ali Ortiz and Jalen Abeyta each scoring a team-high 12 points. Juliana Tafoya paced the Lady Dragons with seven points. Monte del Sol (0-11) plays Raton in a consolation semifinal at 1:15 pm
Cuba 43, Raton 30
The Lady Rams led 19-11 at the half, but the Lady Tigers were scrappy enough to get within 29-23 after scoring the last five points of the third quarter. It wasn’t enough as Cuba (4-9) outscored Raton 14-7 the rest of the way.
Emma Yazzie scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half to lead the Kady Rams. Giana Marez had 12 points to pace the Lady Tigers (4-11).
Mesa Vista 88, Santa Fe Prep/Santa Fe Waldorf 6
The Lady Trojans, fresh off their first loss of the season, exploded for 36 points in the first quarter and led 55-6 at the half in the opening game of the tournament. While the scoring pace slowed, Mesa Vista (12-1) amped up his defense as Prep/Waldorf did not score a single point after the break.
Nine players scored at least six points for the Lady Trojans, with Shanae Silva scoring a team-high 14 points. Tana Lopez added 13 and the duo of Amarissa Quintana and Natasha Pacheco each had 10 points.
Prep/Waldorf (4-3) had Cassi Serna, Bella Caldwell and Kaden Logghe each score two points.
Mesa Vista plays Navajo Prep in a semifinal at 4:45 pm Prep/Waldorf takes on Laguna-Acoma in a 9:45 am consolation semifinal.
Navajo Prep 46, Laguna-Acoma 45
The Lady Hawks built a 22-12 lead at the half and led by as much as 14 points before the Lady Eagles (10-3) made a furious fourth-quarter rally. They scored 21 points in the final quarter to pull out the win and advance to the semifinals.
Aniya Johnson scored 14 of her 23 points in the second half, and Shiloh Conn had all eight of her points in the fourth quarter to help with the comeback.
Syulvia Gedman led Laguna-Acoma (8-7) with 19 points.