Belen effort disappointing in home loss

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After a solid win over county rival Valencia, the Belen boys basketball team forgot to follow up the effort in a lackluster home loss to Grants, 61-52.

The Eagles are now in desperate need of playing every game up to the potential they showed in wins over Gallup and Valencia, if they are to have a chance at making the state playoffs.

At 7-11 overall and 2-3 in district 6-4A, The Eagles have six games left to try and reach the .500 mark. Los Lunas leads the district at 5-0 and Gallup and Grants are 3-2.

Belen starts the second half of district play with visits to Los Lunas on Saturday and Gallup on Tuesday. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. starts.

Coach Pat Mondragon was at a loss to explain his team's poor performance against Grants, a team they demolished, 80-44, in the Poe Corn Invite in Roswell a month ago.

"They have gotten quite a bit better, and are starting to play like a team," said Mondragon of the Pirates. "We weren't very focused and we are having a hard time trying to find out how to win a couple of games in a row."

Grants started the game shooting the ball well and took a 14-7 lead before Colton Lewis went to the free throw line, hitting two technical free shots. Grants Skylar Narramore was whistled for the taunting technical foul.

Antonio Chavez gave Belen a spark off the bench in the second quarter, scoring all six of his points in the 22-point effort.

Belen took the lead at the half, 28-26 as both Dontae Vigil and Zach Martin hit 3-pointers late in the quarter.

But the third quarter lacked complete effort and energy on the Eagles' part. Grants outscored Belen 12-4 in the first four minutes to take a 38-32 lead. The Pirates never trailed after that.

"Their effort was a lot better than ours, and they wanted it more than we did," said a downhearted Mondragon. "It showed."

A sense of urgency took over in the final quarter and when Martin took a feed underneath from a driving Ray Montoya and put the ball in off the board, Belen had cut the lead to 51-47 with four minutes left.

But turnovers and a lack of defensive focus led to an 8-0 grants run, with three buckets coming on lay ups.

Grants hit 8-of-10 from the line in the final quarter to seal the nine-point upset victory.

"I thought we had a great crowd," said Mondragon appreciatively. "It was a lot of fun to have those people there and have a great student section."

Martin led the Eagles with 24 points. Colton Lewis scored seven and Vigil had six.

Grants had three players in double-digits, led by freshman post Richie Lucero with 16. Eric Rael and Josiah Stewart scored 11 points each.


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