Girls: Lady Tigers, Valencia both advance to winner’s side of bracket

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Only one of the four girls games in Thursday’s first round of the Village of Los Lunas Holiday Classic basketball tournament was closer than 17 points.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas guard Dominique Pohl prepares to shoot in Thursday’s first-round Village of Los Lunas Holiday Classic game as Breana Abeita-Sanchez of Sandia Prep defends. Los Lunas rolled to a 74-40 win over the Sundevils. The winners of Friday’s semifinal games will play in the 6 p.m. girls championship game at LLHS.

However, all four games were competitive — at least for one stretch in each contest.

Del Norte held off Socorro, 45-40, in the first game of the day at the Tiger Activity Center. Valencia got by Centennial, 49-32, and Belen lost to Artesia, 58-39.

The host team, Los Lunas High, trailed early in the final but went on to blow out Sandia Prep, 74-40.

The tourney’s second round was set to be played Friday after News-Bulletin press time. Los Lunas was scheduled to face Del Norte in the winner’s semifinals, while Artesia was set to face Valencia, Belen was to face Centennial, and Socorro was to play Sandia Prep.

On Saturday, there will be four games on the girls side, with the seventh-place game scheduled for 9 a.m. The fifth-place game is scheduled for noon, and the third-place contest is set for about 3 p.m.

The championship game is set for about 6 p.m.

Los Lunas 74, Sandia Prep 40

Despite his team invoking the mercy-rule running clock during parts of the final minutes of Thursday night’s first-round tourney contest, Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller was displeased at how his team has started games this season, especially trailing 6-0 and 11-4 to Sandia Prep.

The Class 4A Tigers led the 3A Sundevils by 35 points late in the fourth quarter. The inside play of Teige Zeller and Katie Inman, along with quick, aggressive guard play, helped the Tigers build a 37-25 halftime lead.

“We still need to be more consistent,” said Zeller. “I’m not pleased at how we’re starting. We’re nowhere near where we’re going to be.”

The Sundevils (4-4) got the upper hand early, and seemed to be outhustling the Tigers early. However, Los Lunas soon settled down and began to dominate, mostly with defense.

Steals and blocked shots led to many fast breaks, and the Tigers got plenty of second and third shots. It didn’t look entirely crisp, but LLHS controlled the action.

Zeller led the Tigers with 16 points in limited minutes. Twelve of the 13 Tigers in uniform scored, including Tinaya Murphy, who had 11 points. Los Lunas made an impressive 32 shots from the field, despite a ton of misses and some blocked shots.

Kalei Yepa led the Sundevils with 12 points.

Valencia 49, Centennial 32

In the fourth quarter of the matchup between VHS and Las Cruces’ newest school, Valencia pulled away, aided by fierce defense, improved ball movement and 3-pointers by Tori Torres and Lorien Aragon.

The Jags trailed by one point at the end of the first quarter and never led by more than eight points until midway through the fourth quarter. But Aragon and Torres hit treys that helped push the lead to 46-30 with 1:52 left in the game.

The Jaguar defense seemed to clamp down progressively against the smaller Hawks (6-5) as the game went along, and got some key fourth-quarter steals. It didn’t hurt that Centennial didn’t shoot well, especially from the outside.

Brenda Baeza had one of her better games of the season, scoring 22 points and looking quick and aggressive in the paint. Torres, who had two of her team’s 3-pointers, had eight points, as did VHS teammate Karina Dow.

The Jags made eight of their 11 free throws, while the first-year varsity of the Hawks was 10-of-23. Centennial only made 10 shots from the field.

The Hawks’ Antazia Jones had nine points, while Rachel Yniguez added eight.

Valencia played without its third-leading scorer, Savannah Stump, who went on vacation.

“Again, we had a better second half than first,” said VHS coach Shannon Vigil. “Our press wasn’t that effective, but we mostly just wanted to wear them out. Then, in the second half, we kind of made our move, and really got the press and traps going.”

Vigil said the 3-pointers broke a shooting slump for the Jags, who had not shot well from beyond the arc lately. The treys opened things up for Baeza and others inside.

“Brenda is probably the best true post we’ve had in program history,” said Vigil. “She doesn’t try to make a lot of fancy moves, but she gets to the basket.”

Artesia 58, Belen 39

Less than one week after dropping a seven-point decision at home to Artesia, the Lady Eagles faced the Lady Bulldogs again, this time falling behind early and not recovering.

After trailing 10-0, Belen was behind by double digits most of the contest. Aided by ferocious work by sophomore Mariah Forde, the Eagles crept to within 28-21 in the final minute of the half.

However, the inside-out offense of the Bulldogs (6-3) was too much for Belen, as was Artesia’s presence on defense. The Eagles weren’t hitting from the outside, and when driving inside, seemed to go right into taller Bulldog players, and some of Belen’s shot selection and execution was questionable.

The Eagles shot five more free throws than the Bulldogs, but were only 12-of-24 from the foul line. They also only made 11 shots from the field.

Belen made four 3-pointers, with Forde making three of Belen’s. Forde had a game-high 23 points.

The Eagles clamped down defensively and used a zone defense to try and corral the larger Bulldog players, but that simply allowed Artesia to shoot from outside. The Eagles were also beaten downcourt several times.

Artesia got 12 points from both Leslie Lewis and Anna Gonzales. Lewis made three of the Bulldogs’ five 3-pointers.

Del Norte 45, Socorro 40

In a game that didn’t feature any big leads, the Class 4A Lady Knights (2-4) outlasted the 3A Lady Warriors (4-4).

Peralta resident Elise Medina had 12 points for the Knights, including a pair of 3-poiners. Alannah Blackgoat had a game-high 13 points.

Socorro was led by 12 points from Bryahna Baca. The evenly matched teams were tied at 21-21 at halftime.


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