LL boys beat Academy, Los Alamos; district looms

........................................................................................................................................................................................

If the Los Lunas boys basketball team can continue to play like it did last weekend, the Tigers will be tough to beat in District 6-4A games.

The Tigers blew out Los Alamos, 58-32, on Friday, and beat a tough, tall Albuquerque Academy team Saturday, 61-47. The home wins seemed to get the Tigers back on track after some recent struggles, but some challenging games are ahead.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Jacob Holland of Los Lunas shoots over Chris Martin of Albuquerque Academy in Saturday’s game. The Tigers logged an impressive 61-47 win over Academy. They have a 7 p.m. non-district game at Del Norte on Thursday, and are then idle until their District 6-4A opener at Belen on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Los Lunas (8-5 after Saturday) was set to play at Piedra Vista in Farmington on Tuesday after News-Bulletin press time. The Tigers close out their pre-district slate with a 7 p.m. game Thursday at Del Norte, and are then idle for a week before opening District 6-4A play at Belen on Thursday, Jan. 24.

“This is probably the most together we’ve played since the summer,” said LLHS coach Travis Julian after Saturday’s impressive win. “We’re still having bad third quarters, and we need to address that, but we can still overcome some of the bad losses on our résumé.”

Los Lunas 61, Abq. Academy 47

The host Tigers started strong in Saturday’s contest at the Tiger Activity Center, performing well in the paint against the taller Chargers (8-3) and shooting well from outside. Los Lunas led 28-8 at one point, and never let Academy get closer than 11 points in the second half.

“We made the extra pass, especially in the first half,” said Julian. “We jumped on them early, and maintained the intensity.” The Chargers had only lost to Class 5A powers Rio Rancho and Sandia before Saturday, and their front line boasted a considerable height advantage over the Tigers. However, Los Lunas was tenacious and quick on the perimeter, especially in trapping the Charger guards, and the Tigers showed their physical strength in the paint, ripping rebounds and loose balls away from Academy players.

The Tigers went up 6-0 early, and were up 21-7 early in the second quarter. Academy didn’t shoot particularly well in the game, and the Tigers got the layups and putbacks they needed to stay ahead in the second half.

After Academy cut the Tiger lead to 31-19 in the third quarter, Los Lunas answered with a 7-0 run. Dakota Eward hit a 3-pointer to put Los Lunas up 45-29 with 6:33 left in the game, equaling the Tigers’ biggest lead of the second half.

The Chargers hit some shots to pull as close as 11 points in the waning moments, but Tiger stalls and free throws, especially a pair by Ben Romero with 1:02 remaining, helped Los Lunas hang on.

Romero led all scorers with 19 points, while Holland and Chris Sanchez each had 14. Los Lunas made 18 of its 24 foul shots, and made five 3-pointers.

The Chargers made six 3-pointers, but didn’t do much damage inside. Tommy Lindgren led Academy with 12 points, but his team only made seven two-point field goals.

LLHS kept the ball out of the hands of the Chargers’ best interior players. One of Academy’s top scorers, 6-foot, 4-inch Chris Martin, only had six points.

Julian praised his defense; Los Lunas only committed 12 fouls.

“Our inside guys — Jacob Holland, Emilio Gutierrez and Quentin Mullins — were very disciplined, kept their hands straight up, and didn’t foul,” he said.

Los Lunas 58, Los Alamos 32

The Hilltoppers (1-14) didn’t seem to have nearly the weapons the Tigers had, as the hosts scored the first nine points of Friday’s game, and Los Alamos didn’t score its first points until about five and a half minutes into the game.

The Tigers’ aggressive defense, transition offense and a fluid halfcourt game helped them build a 15-5 lead by the end of the first quarter and a 29-10 margin by halftime. The Tigers went ahead by as many as 26 points late in the third quarter before the ‘Toppers cut it to 19 early in the fourth, but the game would get no closer.

Quentin Mullins led a balanced scoring attack, finishing with a team-high 13 points, while Sanchez scored 12. Romero had 10 points and some stylish assists. The Tigers also made 16 of their 21 free throws.

Skyler Veenis led the Hilltoppers with 13 points. His team only hit 10 shots from the field.


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