Shorthanded Eagle boys gain experience vs. two tough 5A teams

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When District 6-4A play starts for boys basketball teams next month, the Belen Eagles will certainly be battle tested.

In this week’s battles, the Class 4A Eagles’ battles were tough ones — undermanned, and against tough 5A teams — and, in few instances, the battle was bloody.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Nick Baca goes up for a layup in Thursday’s game at Rio Grande. The Eagles lost to Class 5A opponents Atrisco Heritage Academy and Rio Grande this week, and will host Los Alamos at 7 p.m., Tuesday.

With two main players not yet activated after coming over from football, and two others not with the team for disciplinary reasons, the Eagles were shorthanded for Tuesday’s 63-43 home loss to Atrisco Heritage Academy. They had slightly better numbers for Thursday’s trip to Rio Grande, but struggled against the Ravens and lost, 84-47.

The Eagles (1-2) should be much closer to full strength for their next game — a 7 p.m. home game against Los Alamos on Tuesday.

“We didn’t start a single kid tonight that we planned to start this year,” said BHS coach Patrick Mondragon after Thursday’s game. “But this was such great court experience for our younger guys. We really could care less about the scores. This benefits us.”

Belen also has a 7 p.m. road game set to be played at Socorro on Wednesday. The Eagles’ Friday, Dec. 14, game at Del Norte will be their last game for nearly two weeks.

Rio Grande 84, Belen 47

The choppy, whistle-filled contest quickly turned in the favor of the bigger, faster, more-experienced team.

Despite the efforts of the officials, who called a combined 53 fouls in the contest, there was plenty of contact, and some of it drew blood from Belen players.

Midway through the first quarter, Eagle senior point guard Ray Montoya was elbowed in the face, and though he was bleeding profusely, no foul was called. Montoya left the game to get cleaned up, returned to score 10 of the Eagles’ 16 second-quarter points, and didn’t play in the second half.

The Eagles fell behind 19-7 by the end of the first quarter, and were down by 30 late in the second quarter. Rio Grande increased the margin to 40 in the second half.

Belen’s Chad Chavez had to leave the game briefly because he was bleeding. Colton Lewis fouled out of the game on a play in which he appeared to be elbowed in the face by the Ravens’ Cole Moore.

However, even if the game had game been less physical, the Ravens (2-1) had a press and shooting game that would have been tough to overcome. They hit six 3-pointers, 27 shots from the field, and were 23-of-27 from the foul line.

Belen was 19-of-32 on free throws, but couldn’t get easy looks, and only hit 11 shots from the floor.

Mike Torrez led Rio Grande with 26 points. All 12 Ravens in uniform scored.

Mondragon praised the gutsy effort of Eagle junior Thomas Cordova, who ran the point guard spot courageously in place of Montoya.

Antonio Chavez led the Eagles with 21 points, including three 3-pointers, to go with Montoya’s 10 second-quarter points. “It’s hard to play very good competition,” said Mondragon. “But that’s exactly why we do it.”

Atrisco Heritage 63, Belen 43

In Tuesday’s game at BHS, the host Eagles were playing as shorthanded as they hope they will be all year, and still managed to trail by only three points and only 10 at halftime.

Atrisco, which reached the semifinals last season as a Class 4A team, returns most of its lineup, and the Jaguars (3-0) held the host Eagles to eight points in the second quarter and six in the third to build a 20-point lead.

Montoya led the Eagles with 18 points, but he was the only Belen player to score more than seven. Corbin Waquie led the Jaguars with 14 points, while teammate Phillip LaCour had 10 points.


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