Jaguar boys can’t handle taller, more-veteran Pintos

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For one half of Tuesday’s game, the Valencia High boys basketball team looked like it was finding ways to do things to earn a win.

For the other half, the Jaguars didn’t seem to have more answers for a taller, stronger, more-experienced team — Moriarty — that ended up winning 46-37 at VHS. The Jags held the Pintos to two points in the first quarter, and actually led, 15-14, at the half, but Moriarty controlled the final two quarters.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia High’s Josue Padilla, right, tries to stop Moriarty’s Luke Thomas in Tuesday’s game. The Jaguars are set to play a 7 p.m game at Del Norte on Saturday, and will face Bosque Prep at about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 27, at Los Lunas High in the first round of the Village of Los Lunas Holiday Classic.

The loss dropped the Jags to 2-7 on the season. They were set to play at Bernalillo on Friday night after News-Bulletin press time, and are scheduled to play a 7 p.m. game at Del Norte on Saturday.

The Jaguars are also set to play in the three-game Village of Los Lunas Holiday Classic at Los Lunas High. They open the tourney by facing Bosque Prep at about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 27.

“One good thing is that we’ve found our identity,” said Valencia’s first-year coach, Ezau Rios, after Tuesday’s loss. “We experimented with playing as fast as we can. But I think we’re going to have to be a lot more methodical. We have to play at the tempo we want, and dictate the pace.”

Valencia tried to slow things down and keep the ball out of the hands of the Pintos (7-3), and was successful in the first half. VHS led 6-2 after one quarter, and after Moriarty sped things up slightly and took a lead, Valencia ended up leading at halftime.

However, Moriarty forced the issue more in the second half, and its defensive-minded guards forced Valencia’s guards into more turnovers in the third quarter. Moriarty led by as many as 14 points in the game’s final minutes.

Moriarty dominated the boards at both ends throughout the contest — sometimes ripping the ball right out of a Jaguar’s arms.

Valencia’s Quentin Wanstall had a game-high 13 points. Garrett Gibson and Josh Baca-Torres each had 10. But only one other Jaguar, Josue Padilla, who had four points, even got into the scoring column.

Valencia lost despite 13-of-16 foul shooting. The Jaguars made zero 3-pointers, and missed some layups at points that might have changed the game.

Cody Howse led the Pintos with 12 points.

“Moriarty came out with a lot more intensity in the second half, and I think that snowballed a bit,” said Rios. “And it was an uphill climb after that.” The Pintos were only 8-of-16 from the line, only made two 3-pointers and missed many easy shots. But they got the ball inside more easily, and guard Luke Thomas was able to drive against Jaguar players at times.

It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Jaguars. Class 4A Moriarty’s most impressive win so far was probably a one-point victory over 5A Manzano.

At the Los Lunas tourney, the Jags will face either Deming or Sandia Prep in the second round. Los Lunas, Aztec, Centennial and Del Norte are on the other side of the bracket.

Rios is confident that if his team plays within itself, the wins will come.

“We’ve been able to play with everyone,” he said. “Even Española.”


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