Tiger boys struggle after break; will host Los Alamos, Academy

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Now that the entire Los Lunas boys basketball team has been practicing together for a few weeks, it’s time for the Tigers to start playing like a team, according to their coach.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Jalen Chavez of Los Lunas, left, tries to get past the reach of Zach Tenorio, right, in Friday’s game against Sandia Prep. The Tigers are set to host Los Alamos on Friday and Albuquerque Academy on Saturday. Both games are set for 7 p.m.

And with four Class 4A opponents on tap before district play, now would be a good time for team basketball. LLHS coach Travis Julian said his team didn’t play as a unit when it lost 54-52 at home to Sandia Prep on Friday, and when it dropped a 57-48 decision at Mesilla Valley on Saturday.

The Tigers are set to host Los Alamos on Friday and Albuquerque Academy on Saturday. Both games are set for 7 p.m.

“It’s not a talent issue; it’s a chemistry issue,” said Julian. “We are not playing team basketball right now. We’re not executing. It’s more like, ‘It’s my turn to shoot.’ We have to keep trusting in the process.”

In Friday’s game, the Class 4A Tigers started flat against the 3A Sundevils, and spent most of the game trying to stay close. Los Lunas took the lead briefly a few times in the third and fourth quarters, but Sandia Prep hit enough free throws and the Tigers missed enough shots to allow the visitors to escape with the victory.

After a coast-to-coast layup by the Tigers’ Ben Romero put LLHS up 43-42 with 3:23 to go, Prep took the lead for good on a putback to start a 7-0 run. Chris Sanchez and Aaron Saiz hit 3-pointers that kept the Tigers close in the final minute before a missed Sanchez layup and two free throws by Prep’s Tyler Donner but the Sundevils (8-2) up 54-50 with 4.9 seconds left. Romero hit a long 2-pointer at the final buzzer.

Romero led the Tigers with 20 points. Jacob Holland had 14, but the only other three Tigers to score were held to a combined 18 points.

“Give credit to Prep,” said Julian. “They made the plays.”

The coach said that just as lack of execution and getting scores on consecutive possessions was a problem in the Prep game, getting back-to-back defensive stops was a struggle at Mesilla Valley. The Tigers were only down by three points at the half, and cut an 11-point lead down to about six in the fourth quarter, said Julian.

“Their 6-foot, 7-inch kid (Mesilla senior Devon Tourtilloutt) didn’t hurt us earlier, but he had a putback that was a momentum-changer,” said Julian. “There were some tough calls, including a charge on a layup that went in, and we didn’t shoot well.”

The Class 2A Sonblazers had three players in double figures, and only needed to make 5-of-10 free throws to win. Romero had 12, Holland had 11 and Chris Sanchez 10 for the Tigers.

After this weekend’s home games, the Tigers are on the road for their final two pre-district contests. A 6 p.m. game is slated for next Tuesday’s long trip to play Piedra Vista in Farmington, followed by a 7 p.m. game at Del Norte on Thursday, Jan. 17.


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