Tiger boys edged by Gallup; VHS visits Saturday

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Friday’s 51-50 loss at Gallup broke at least some of the momentum the Los Lunas boys basketball team had built during a four-game winning streak.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Mario Garcia, left, tries to stop Gallup’s Nick August from getting to the basket in Friday’s 51-50 Los Lunas High loss. The Tigers conclude the regular season by hosting Miyamura on Thursday and Valencia on Saturday, with both games at 7 p.m.

This week, the Tigers will try to regain that momentum as the post-season approaches.

Thursday, the Tigers host Miyamura, and Los Lunas hosts Valencia in Saturday’s regular-season finale. Both games are set for 7 p.m.

The Tigers are 13-9 overall, 5-3 in District 6-4A, and are ranked No. 7 in the coaches association poll. They were nearly able to steal a win at No. 6 Gallup last Friday, and the things that didn’t go well are both regrettable and a symbol of things the Tigers overcame to make the Bengals (13-9, 7-1) work for a win.

Los Lunas fought back twice from 11-point deficits late, and trailed 51-48 with the ball and 23.6 seconds left in the game. But lack of execution, according to LLHS coach Albert Aragon, and excellent defense by the Bengals kept the Tigers from getting a good 3-point look, and Michael Pohl’s layup just before the final buzzer merely made the score look closer.

“We didn’t get the look out of that play that we were hoping for,” said Aragon. “But also, they got a lot of loose balls in the game, we missed a lot of shots right under the basket, and the 1-for-7 we went at the foul line is bad. Both are bad —both the one make, and only seven attempts.”

Austin Gibson had one of his best games of the season, scoring 21 points and playing a major role in the Tigers’ late rally. Los Lunas trailed 50-39 with 50.4 seconds left before a series of steals and missed free throws by the Bengals, along with a 3-pointer by Gibson and layups by he and Mario Garcia, made it 50-48.

The Tigers quickly fouled Gallup’s Nick August, who made 1-of-2 foul shots to put his team up 51-48 before LLHS’s game-ending possession.

Gibson was called for a technical with about three minutes left, and it seemed to fire up the Tigers.

After a big basket by the Bengals, the crowd noise kept players from hearing a whistle as Aragon called for a timeout. Gibson was fouled hard while shooting after the whistle, and a Gallup player appeared to stand over the Tiger senior, who got up and shoved the Bengal opponent.

Garcia added 10 points for the Tigers.

Patrick Whitman, the Gallup big man, posed matchup problems for the Tigers, and he led his team with 21 points. August and Dominic Martinez each had 11 for Gallup, which was 9-of-14 from the foul line. Each team hit four 3-pointers.

The Tigers executed well in the first half, dribble-driving to the basket and using the baseline well to forge a 26-20 halftime lead.

There were five ties and five lead changes in the game before the Bengals went ahead for good with a 17-4 second-half run.

Gallup won 50-48 at LLHS on Jan. 24.

Next up for the Tigers is Miyamura, who the Tigers beat 76-62 on the road last month. Saturday, Los Lunas hosts a Valencia team they’ve beaten at VHS twice ― once in a December tournament and again on Feb. 2 by a 54-46 score.

The Tigers have never lost to the Jaguars at home.

Los Lunas is guaranteed to finish no higher than second and no lower than fourth in 6-4A. The district tourney runs Tuesday through Saturday of next week, so the Tigers will could end up having to play four games in the tournament.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.