Tiger boys handle Jaguars

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While the Los Lunas boys basketball team might already be where the Valencia Jaguars hope to be in a couple of years, there is more business straight ahead.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Randy Moore of Los Lunas, left, shoots over Valencia’s D.J. Heybourne as Ronnie Williams of VHS defends in Thursday’s game at LLHS. The Tigers won, 61-33, and will host Belen at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Tigers’ 61-33 home victory over the Jaguars on Thursday set up a home showdown against Belen at 7 p.m. Saturday. Los Lunas won by 10 points at Belen on Jan. 24, and BHS is still smarting from Thursday’s home loss to Grants.

“Belen can shoot, and when their guards are scoring off of penetration, they’re tough to guard,” said LLHS coach Travis Julian. “We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We have to stay hungry.

Valencia hosts Gallup on Saturday. Los Lunas (15-5 overall, 5-0 in District 6-4A) travels to Grants on Tuesday, while the Jaguars (5-16, 1-4) play at Miyamura in Gallup.

Thursday’s game had flashes of brilliance from Valencia, but the host Tigers looked older, quicker and smarter most of the game. Los Lunas swapped baskets with their fellow Los Lunas Schools rivals in the first quarter and early in the third, but the second and fourth quarters were all Tigers.

The more-veteran lineup of LLHS went on a 16-2 run to start the second quarter, swiping passes and getting fast-break opportunities. Tiger senior Ben Romero scored 11 of his game-high 27 points in the second quarter.

Valencia pulled to within 30-21 early in the third quarter, but another LLHS run, punctuated by a 3-point play from Romero, put the Tigers up 41-23. Los Lunas bench players got minutes in the second half of the contest.

The Tigers’ second-leading scorer was Chris Sanchez. The junior scored seven points after sitting out the first quarter because he missed a practice.

Valencia couldn’t dribble or pass inside easily. Josh Baca had 10 points to lead the way, while no other Jaguar player had more than five.

Both sides had spirited student sections, though parking was tough to find at the well-attended game. LLHS principal Dan Padilla said there is parking in back of the school during ongoing construction. Fans can enter from Los Cerrillos to the inclined lot between the main school buildings and Willie Chavez Field.

Julian praised VHS coach Ezau Rios and the young Jaguar squad — Los Lunas High fans certainly remember teams that were not as solid and experienced as the 2012-13 bunch.

“Ezau is doing a great job over there,” said Julian. “Those young guys are going to reap benefits from games like this. They work hard, just like our youngest guys do at practice, and it was nice to reward them with some playing time tonight.”


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