Jaguar boys rally for overtime win in home opener

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Tuesday’s boys basketball contest between host Valencia and visiting Socorro came down to the final seconds — twice.

The Jags won their first game on the home court for new coach Ezau Rios in heart-stopping fashion, surviving in overtime, 51-50, after rallying and tying it in the final seconds of regulation.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Josh Baca-Torres, right, is about to go after the same ball sought after by Dylan Gallegos of Socorro, left, in Tuesday’s game. The Jags emerged with a dramtic 51-50 overtime win and will travel to Class 5A power Valley on Tuesday.

“It was a great feeling, because this is what we are working for,” said Rios. “We faced so much adversity, and we still made it happen.”

Valencia (2-1) has the weekend off and will work on lessening the turnovers and defense before facing Valley in Albuquerque at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Vikings had wins over Rio Rancho and Cibola in the early part of the season.

That will give the Jaguars a serious tune-up for next weekend’s Española Valley Sundevil Classic beginning Thursday.

Against Socorro (0-3), Josh Baca went to the line early in the overtime period and calmly sank two free shots to give the Jags a 47-45 edge.

The Jags then played good defense, forcing Socorro into a missed shot and two turnovers to get the game within a minute left.

Valencia was content to work the ball around the perimeter, forcing the Warriors to foul. With a narrow 47-46 lead, Gabe Urtiaga went to the line with 27 seconds left. His first shot hit the back of the iron, bounded up and touched the top of the backboard, and then fell cleanly through. The second shot went straight in, extending the Jags’ lead to 49-46.

“I thought I was going to make them, right away,” said Urtiaga of the crucial points. “I had confidence.”

He would find himself at the line again moments later in even a more crucial situation.

With 14 seconds left, Socorro’s Brendon Rosales hit a pair of free throws to bring the Warriors within one point.

Adam Paz stole the inbounds pass and made a frantic lay up with 14 seconds left to give the Warriors a 50-49 lead.

Urtiaga was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play, and went to the line to win the game for Valencia with two perfect free shots.

“I was lucky to get fouled,” said Urtiaga, who then credited his teammates in making his heroics possible. “It was from my other teammates, they were the ones that got us to overtime.”

Socorro had one last chance, driving the length of the court with Michael Padilla ready to take the winning shot.

But Garrett Gibson rose high into the air, and swatted the attempt away and the buzzer sounded with Valencia winning, 51-50.

“It was risky, I guess,” said Gibson of the block. “I was not going to just give him a free layup. It was better to have to try and make two free throws.”

Rios was glad to have the first score in overtime as he ordered the Jags to go into a slow-down offense, looking for back cuts and taking time off of the clock.

“It wasn’t that we only needed two points,” said the new Jags coach. “We felt like we needed to draw them out. We were confident that we would be able to get wide-open lay ups, because they had to come and chase us.”

Valencia trailed 40-32 when Padilla hit a trey form the head of the key. He led all Warrior, scoring with 11 points.

The Jags cut the lead to 40-37 before Socorro answered with another 3-pointer, this time from Paz.

But Valencia would not give up, outscoring Socorro 8-2 in the final 1:23 of the fourth quarter. When Josue Padilla tipped in a missed shot with six seconds left, Valencia had tied the contest at 45 and sent it into the extra frame.

“Foul trouble really affected us,” said Rios of the early second half when Socorro built the lead. “The people that stepped in did a good job, but it gave Socorro a little more freedom. Our intensity level dipped, also.”

Gibson led the Jags in scoring with 14 points. Urtiaga added a 3-pointer to 6-of-6 shooting from the foul line for nine points. Padilla and Quentin Wanstall had eight points, and Josh Baca added seven.

“If you want to win you are going to have to play defense,” said Rios. “In the third quarter, that is what was going to bring us back into the game. For the whole game, it was about trying to adjust our defense.”


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