Eagle boys rally late, but taller Knights prevail

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Now that the Belen High boys basketball team has faced a number of different challenges, the Eagles have plenty of time to prepare for their next game.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Nick Kurtz, left, draws a blocking foul from Del Norte’s Christopher Wright, center, in Friday’s game. The Eagles are idle until traveling to the Poe Corn Classic in Roswell on Dec. 27, 28 and 29.

Belen’s 62-54 loss Friday at Del Norte was the Eagles’ last game before Christmas. They’ll face Piedra Vista in the opening round of the Poe Corn Classic in Roswell on Thursday, Dec. 27.

Belen (2-3) will hopefully have 6-foot, 6-inch Zach Martin available for the Roswell trip, and the Eagles could have used the injured senior against the tall Del Norte lineup. The long arms of the Knights (1-4) helped the hosts hold off some fourth-quarter surges by the Eagles, giving Del Norte its first win of the year.

“We didn’t handle the boards very well,” said BHS coach Patrick Mondragon after Thursday’s game. “And we didn’t shoot extremely well. We never quite got over the top of the hump. But that’s why we play on the road, to learn how to shoot in different situations.”

Both teams started slow, with the Eagles stopping the Knight guards from penetrating, and leading 12-6 after one quarter. But Belen’s defenders couldn’t keep the Knights’ inside players from getting the ball in the paint, and Del Norte rebounded well enough to get three or more shots on one possession, in many cases.

The Knights led 25-23 at the half, and opened up a 41-34 lead late in the third quarter. Belen kept it close with a full-court press that created turnovers, along with some breakaway layups and 3-pointers.

The Eagles pulled to within one point early in the fourth quarter before Del Norte surged ahead again. Belen stayed close and was within 58-54 when the Knights’ 6-foot, 6-inch Daniel Delgado fouled out with 1:16 left in the game.

However, Belen couldn’t capitalize, missing two free throws and 3-pointers on its next two possessions. Del Norte hit four of six foul shots in the final minute to seal it.

BHS senior Nick Kurtz had a game-high 13 points and three of the team’s six 3-pointers. Ray Montoya and Colton Lewis each scored 12, and Antonio Chavez had 10. Belen only made 16 of its 28 free throws.

Del Norte was led by Christopher Wright’s 16 points. Ray Murphy had 14, and Delgado had 11. The Knights were 14-of-21 from the charity stripe.

At the Poe Corn tourney, the first-round Belen-Piedra Vista game is set for 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 27, at Goddard High. Belen plays either Goddard or Grants in the second round the following day, and will face either Roswell High, Farmington High, Artesia or Los Alamos on Saturday, Dec. 29.

Piedra Vista is not as tall as Del Norte, Mondragon said, but the Panthers are excellent shooters. If the first-round game is close, Mondragon is hoping his team can prevail.

“Confidence is a dangerous thing,” he said.


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