Lady Tigers pull away in fourth to beat Belen

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Three long scoring runs fueled Los Lunas’ District 6-4A opening 55-25 girls basketball win over rival Belen on Tuesday night.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Mariah Forde swats at a shot by Nikki Hathoot of Los Lunas in Tuesday’s game. The Tigers, who beat Belen 55-25 on Tuesday, will host Piedra Vista and Gallup next week.

The Tigers used a 20-4 run through the bulk of the first half to build a 28-10 halftime edge. After a lethargic third quarter, Los Lunas put together runs of 10-2 and 10-3 to seal the win in the fourth.

With Gallup’s 55-48 loss to Valencia, the two favorites for the district will meet next Thursday, with the host Tigers having a chance to put some distance between the two with a win on their home court. Los Lunas is set to host Piedra Vista on Tuesday for a non-district game, and hosts Gallup on Thursday night.

Belen is scheduled to host Miyamura (9-6, 1-0) at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Tipoff for all three games is slated for 7 p.m.

Before the two meet, Los Lunas (13-3, 1-0 before Friday’s game) was set to visit Grants (9-8, 0-1), and Gallup (12-4, 0-1) was set to host Belen (6-9, 0-1) on Friday in games set after News-Bulletin press time.

Against Belen, the Tigers’ Tinaya Murphy hit an inside basket and Sanae Gaerlan popped in a 3-pointer before Mariah Forde could answer with a bucket for the Eagles. The 5-2 margin would be as close as Belen would get as the Tigers started their impressive first half run that included outscoring the Eagles 6-0 the rest of the first quarter to take an 11-2 lead.

Katie Inman scored all seven of her points during the run that put Los Lunas up 25-6.

Los Lunas could not extend the lead in the third quarter after leading 28-10 at halftime. Both teams went cold from the floor, and the Tigers outscored Belen 5-4 to take a 33-14 edge into the final eight minutes.

“I don’t just look at the game, I look at every quarter and every possession,” said Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller. “We still won the third quarter, even as ugly as it was. So that is a positive.”

The Tigers put on fourth-quarter runs of 10-2 and 10-3, broken up only by Forde’s bucket that got her to double-digits. The sophomore ended the night as the Eagle’s leading scorer with 12 points.

Nikki Hathoot went to the line after being fouled while attempting a trey and hit three charity tosses to end the second run and put Los Lunas up, 53-33. Hathoot had 10 points, including going 6-of-7 from the line.

Tiege Zeller scored 12 to lead the Tiger scoring. Murphy joined Hathoot with 10 points. Gaerlan scored eight, Inman seven, Alyssa Vigil had three, Elise Tapia and Jordan Holland added two each and Mariah Doyle scored one.

Tiger senior Tinaya Murphy explained what it meant to get a win over their county rival.

“It feels good,” said Murphy, now in her fifth year of varsity tussles with the Eagles. “In the beginning, we started off not very good, and now we are dominating our rivals. We own this county, a little bit. We are a team to look for, I think.”


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