Jaguar boys don't execute well, but rally in final pre-district contest

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There is no denying the effort level of the Valencia High boys basketball team is high. If the Jaguars can get their full lineup on the court and combine that intensity with four solid quarters, VHS will have a better chance of winning District 6-4A games.

The Jags, who rallied late in a 67-55 home loss to Santa Fe High, are set to begin their 6-4A schedule with a 7 p.m. game at Gallup High on Thursday. They'll host Miyamura at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"I really feel we can pull some upsets in district," said Valencia coach Ezau Rios. "What we're trying to teach is complex, and that's why most don't do it. But we're getting there, and we've really only had two games (Centennial and Moriarty) where we had everyone suited up and healthy."

The Jags (4-12) played well at times in Saturday's loss to Santa Fe High, Rios' alma mater. Valencia was without senior post Josue Padilla, who was recovering from a concussion suffered in practice, and guard Chance Maciolek, who was finishing a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Both are expected to play at Gallup.

Valencia fell behind early in Saturday's game, 15-4, and was executing poorly on offense and showing very little transition defense. Plus, the tall, veteran lineup of the Demons (8-9) dominated the boards.

The VHS guards tried hard to drive to the basket and pressure the Demons defensively, and stayed within 10 to 14 points of SFHS until late in the third quarter. That's when Jag point guard Quentin Wanstall rolled his ankle and didn't return.

Santa Fe went up 56-35 in the fourth quarter before a spirited effort by the Jags pulled Valencia to within 63-55, with a pair of Josh Baca free throws with 48 seconds left. However, the Jaguars seemed spent at that point, and the Demons hit their final four free throws to seal the win.

Each team shot 35 free throws in the foul-plagued game, which seemed to go back and forth between being officiated very tightly, then switching to an almost-no-fouls mode.

Dominic Zamora led the Jags with 11 points, including a few nice jumpers off the dribble. Josh Baca had nine hard-earned points, and Wyatt Honstein led four Demons in double figures with 17 points.

"It wasn't our best-executed game, but I'm proud that these guys have no quit in them now," said Rios. "That wasn't here when I got here."


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