Lady Tigers’ big second half put them in tourney semis

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Los Alamos put quite a first half scare into the undefeated Los Lunas High girls basketball team on Thursday.

However, the Lady Tigers responded after halftime by outscoring the Hilltoppers 50-19 in the second half to take a resounding 77-45 win.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: twisting through traffic is Los Lunas sophomore guard Elise Tapia during the Tigers’ impressive 77-45 win Thursday over Los Alamos in the Joe Armijo Classic. The Tigers will play in either the 4:45 p.m. third-place game or the 6:30 p.m. championship on Saturday at Albuquerque Academy.

The victory, in the first round of the Joe Armijo Classic at Albuquerque Academy, made the Lady Tigers 4-0 and put them in the tourney semifinals.

It was the second blowout victory this week for the Tigers, who dispatched Albuquerque High on Tuesday, 71-31, on the Bulldogs’ home court.

The win advances Los Lunas to the semifinals against Hope Christian, scheduled for tip after News-Bulletin press time.

The Tigers will play either Volcano Vista or Oñate on Saturday. Friday’s semifinal winners meet in the championship game at 6:30 p.m., the losers play for third place at 4:45 p.m.

Los Lunas hosts West Mesa in a contest set for a 7 p.m. tip on Friday, Dec. 21. The game has been moved to the Los Lunas Middle School gym due to renovations on the high school campus.

The two contests left in the Joe Armijo Classic should test the mettle of coach Marty Zeller’s Tigers better than the opening four games of the season. Los Lunas has won by 40, 33, 32 and 30 points.

Los Lunas 77, Los Alamos 45

It seemed like the bus arrived late to Academy for the opening game of the Armijo Classic, because the Tiger offense didn’t hit the floor until the final two minutes of the first half.

With her team down 26-21, Sanae Gaerland hit a couple of 3-pointers to give Los Lunas a surprising 27-26 edge at the half. Los Alamos had built a 19-11 lead before Gaerlan, who hit three treys in the second quarter and four overall, sparked the Tiger comeback.

“We need to come out and play better right away,” said Gaerlan of having to jump-start the offense from beyond the arc. “That is what we need to work on.”

Coach Zeller concurred, saying, “We just weren’t ready to play, we didn’t come ready. The penetration was not there offensively, but we played Tiger defense in the second half.”

Los Lunas came out energized in the second half, scoring 32 points in the third period to put the game away.

Los Alamos’ big inside players got into foul trouble in the quarter, with three players having four fouls just a few minutes in.

It would come into play in the tightly-called contest as Los Lunas’ Katie Inman, and Los Alamos’ leading scorer, Hayley. Both fouled out before the third quarter ended with Los Lunas leading, 59-35.

Each led the way for the Hilltoppers (3-3) with 14 points. Erin Kirk (11 points), Marissa Larribas (5) and Anna Scoot all fouled out for Los Alamos.

Tinaya Murphy also fouled out in the fourth quarter for Los Lunas, after scoring 12 points.

Gaerlan and Cera Chavez, who provided a big spark off the bench, scored 12 points each. Elise Tapia contributed nine points and Nikki Hathoot scored six.

“Cera coming in off the bench, wow, and from a freshman,” said an impressed Zeller,

Teige Zeller led the scoring for the Tigers with 15 points, including one 3-pointer.

“Senae hitting those ‘threes’ really opened things up for us,” he added.

Gaerlan’s last trey came early in the third quarter when the game was still close. The long-range shot put Los Lunas up 41-32 and was the turning point for the Tigers to open up a large lead.

Gaerlan explained what opened the shooting lanes for her impressive 3-point performance. She went 4-for-10 from behind the arc.

“When our guards penetrate, it is always open,” said Gaerlan. “We find the gaps that makes it open. Our guards did a really good job of getting us open.”

Zeller noted that the attempt to shut down Teige Zeller was part of the slow start for Los Lunas.

“They played a really wide box-and-one. The girls had not seen that. It will be a great game for us to watch and learn from it,” said coach Zeller.

Los Lunas 71, Alb. High 31

Zeller put up some impressive numbers as the Tigers went into Albuquerque High’s gym Tuesday and trounced the Lady Bulldogs.

The junior post had 25 points and 19 in the first half, as Los Lunas built a 35-22 halftime edge.

Murphy added 13 points and Inman had 10.

The Tigers got another spark in the fourth quarter off the bench. Los Lunas went 7-of-10 from the line and outscored Albuquerque High 19-2 in the final quarter.

The Bulldogs were led by Ashley Perez with 15 points.


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