Jaguars survive close call

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The Valencia High School boys basketball team gave the host Pintos plenty of chances in the waning moments of their Class 4A non-district game in Torrance County on Tuesday night. But the Jaguars were able to hold on, barely, for a 55-53 win.

After having jumped out to a 21-8 lead in the first quarter, the visiting Jaguars (3-2 after Tuesday), ranked eighth in this week's Class 4A coaches association poll, let unranked Moriarty (3-7) back into the game.

Valencia was scheduled to visit Bernalillo in a game that was to tip off after News-Bulletin press time Friday. The Jaguars host Del Norte in a home contest slated for Saturday around 7 p.m.

Tuesday's contest eventually went down to the wire, with the Pintos getting two open looks from the field as they gunned for the go-ahead bucket in the final half minute, while Valencia had a less-than-stellar performance from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

"We played an excellent first half," Valencia coach Dominick Romero said. "Then we kind of got away from what we were trying to do. And give credit to them. They took it up a notch in the third quarter."

The first of Moriarty's final shots came with about 26 seconds left in the game and the Jaguars leading 54-53. Pinto Eron Hyatt's jumper spun in and out of the basket after the senior power forward, who contributed 14 points in the losing effort, had stolen the ball about seven seconds earlier.

Moriarty's Davilay Wells then put a little too much enthusiasm into a foul a couple seconds later, which sent Valencia's L.J. Vargas to the line all by himself. The Jaguar was only able to convert one of the two intentional-foul charity tosses for the 55-53 lead, and VHS retained possession of the ball.

Jaguar Santiago Cordova subsequently missed two free throws with 20.5 seconds left.

The Pintos' last opportunity came with about two seconds on the clock, following an inbounds pass from Jesse Lucero from under the basket. The ball was lobbed out near the top of the key, and senior point guard Luke Thomas, who had knocked down a 3-pointer earlier in the period, fired it up from just beyond the arc.

The shot — it really did look like it was going to go in — bounced off the rim, and the Jaguars were able to escape into what was a cold and rainy night.

"I thought both of those were going to go in," Moriarty coach Michael Mondragon said of his boys' almost-but-not-quite field goal attempts. "They were both good shots."

The bottom line, however, was Valencia won the contest in the first half. Jaguars senior guard Shane Lewis, who poured in a game-high 17 points, scored 11 points in the first 8 minutes of play, including two of his four total treys.

"That's a very good team," Mondragon said of VHS.

"You can't give a team like that a head start, and that's what we did."

Valencia enjoyed a 31-18 lead at halftime, and the Jaguars looked to be on their way to an easy victory when Lewis canned two more threes early in the third quarter to expand the advantage to 37-21.


-- Email the author at hsmith@mvtelegraph.com.