Tiger boys get win in Las Cruces

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A 10-0 run in the first few minutes of the final quarter of Saturday’s game helped give the Los Lunas boys basketball season its first win of the 2012-13 season.

News-Bulletin file photo: Los Lunas Senior Emilio Gutierrez, right, plays defense in a recent game. Defense was important in the Tigers’ fourth-quarter comeback win in Las Cruces against Centennial. The Tigers are set to host Rio Grande at 7 p.m., Thursday. The Tigers’ 42-39 win over Centennial in Las Cruces gave first-year Tiger coach Travis Julian his first victory at the LLHS helm.

Noting that the boys took five charges and played great defense throughout the game, Julian explained that excellent conditioning of his team was a major reason for the win.

“We really have conditioned these kids pretty hard and it shows the kind of shape we are in,” said Julian. “That is what has made the difference in the fourth quarter.”

Centennial (3-2) led Los Lunas, 30-23, at the end of the third quarter. Minutes later, The Tigers (1-2 after Saturday’s win) had regained the lead, 33-30, thanks to some frantic defense and full-court pressure.

The Tigers were set to host Santa Fe Indian School on Tuesday after News-Bulletin press time, and are scheduled to host Rio Grande at 7 p.m., Thursday.

Julian got a pleasant surprise as the bus loaded for the long road trip to Las Cruces at 6 a.m., Saturday morning.

After suiting up for the Tiger football team’s heartbreaking 17-14 loss in the Class 4A state championship football game, Jacob Holland and Chad Murphy showed up ready to go play basketball.

Julian noted that he checked with Los Lunas Schools athletics director Wilson Holland, and both players were cleared to participate.

“After that tough football game on Friday night, it was pretty neat that they showed up and wanted to go,” said Julian of the dedication shown by the two football players.

“I will respect what the student-athlete wants to do. If they want to sit out for a week, then we will respect that. I am going to leave it up to those guys.”

Saturday’s game was Centennial’s first against a New Mexico opponent. The first-year Hawks’ other four contests had been against Texas competition.

After a close 9-9 first quarter, Centennial held the Tigers to just nine points in the second quarter and five in the third before the fourth-quarter surge.

Centennial had the last shot and ran a high pick to free the head-of-the-key trey attempt.

“Our inside did a great job of adjusting to it and contested the shot,” said Julian of the winning defensive play.

“They have good length,” said Julian of the tall Hawks. “That kind of bothered our guys. We probably missed 15 to 20 shots inside the paint during the game. They blocked some our shots and that made us tentative.”

Julian also noted that the Hawks shadowed leading scorer Ben Romero in a box-and-one defense. Romero only had 10 points in the game.

“Any time you play against a gimmick defense like that, it takes time to adjust,” said Julian.

Los Lunas did get two 3-pointers and nine points from Marcus Mendoza. Emilio Gutierrez had six, Quentin Mullins scored five and Holland got four points in his season debut.


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