Eagle boys upset Gallup in overtime, 69-68

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After trying to get four solid quarters together from the entire lineup all season long, things finally fell together for the Belen High boys basketball team on Saturday night.

The Eagles’ emotional 69-68 overtime win over Gallup might give Belen a ton of confidence, as it showed a great deal about Belen’s capabilities. Zach Martin’s two free throws with 5.9 seconds left in overtime provided the tying and winning points, and a putback by Gallup’s Andrew Klumpenhower was ruled to have been shot after the final buzzer.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Zach Martin shoots in Saturday’s game. The Eagles upset the Bengals in a thrilling 69-68 overtime victory, with Martin making the tying and winning free throws, and Belen will travel to Valencia for a District 6-4A game at 7 p.m., Friday.

The Eagles were set to play at Miyamura on Tuesday after News-Bulletin press time. They’re scheduled to play a 7 p.m. game at Valencia on Friday.

“Everyone contributed,” said BHS coach Patrick Mondragon. “We’d seen glimpses of what we can do, but tonight, we got big minutes from everyone. It’s tough to play teams the caliber of Los Lunas and Gallup to start district, but our kids have handled it well.”

The Eagles (6-9 overall, 1-1 in 6-4A before Tuesday’s game) not only overcame a 41-28 third-quarter deficit to beat Gallup, but were down by four points twice in the final two minutes of regulation before rallying to tie the game. They also trailed 67-59 with 1:47 left in overtime before their fantastic finish, which included a 12-1 run and scoring the game’s final eight points.

There were 15 ties and five lead changes in the contest.

The Bengals (10-7, 1-1), who played in last year’s state title game, showed their ability early, weaving through Eagle players and getting looks from all over the floor. The Eagles got a few mid-range shots, but were mostly reliant on getting the ball to guards who were spotting up or slashing to the basket. The Bengals seemed to be outhustling the Eagles, especially on rebounds.

Martin, Belen’s 6-foot, 5-inch senior, didn’t touch the ball in scoring position much in the first half, and had only four points at the half. Belen trailed 29-24 at halftime.

Gallup, which brought a fair-sized crowd to Saturday’s game, turned up the intensity at both ends to build its third-quarter lead.

Belen played much better defense in the fourth quarter, however, and moved the ball better. Bengal coach Dominic Romero tried to spread the floor and get his players driving to the basket, but Belen’s defense and Gallup’s missed layups helped the Eagles pull closer. The rally ignited the Belen crowd.

A putback by Belen’s Colton Lewis with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game, 54-54. The teams traded baskets in the final minute, with Mondragon calling a timeout with 20.7 seconds left to set up a game-winning shot.

The Belen inbounds pass went off of an Eagle player and out of bounds. Gallup’s Dominic Martinez took a shot at the fourth-quarter buzzer that didn’t draw iron, and Belen defended the play well.

Gallup made three shots in overtime to go up 67-59, and still led 68-61 with 1:36 to go. A Ray Montoya three-point play and a 3-pointer by Nick Kurtz put the Eagles within 68-67, Gallup’s Darren Spencer missed a pair of free throws with 22.1 seconds left.

Belen set up a play that resulted in a miss by Kurtz, and Martin was fouled on his putback attempt. His two free throws set up the Eagles for their game-saving defensive stop.

Lewis led the Eagles with 24 points, including three of the team’s five 3-pointers. Martin finished with 17 points — 13 of it in the second half. Kurtz had one of his better games of the season, scoring 14.

Dominic Martinez led Gallup with 19 points, while Lionel Money had 15. Spencer and another strong Gallup scorer, Lionel Kinsel, were held to a combined six points.

Belen is set to host Grants on Thursday, Feb. 7.

“It’s hard to teach kids to get past mistakes, and maintain composure,” said Mondragon. “Now, we know what we can overcome.”


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