Los Lunas boys down Eagles; District 6-4A lead up to two games
With a minute left in the third quarter Saturday night, Belen High had overcome the Los Lunas lead on a Zach Martin tap in to take a 39-38 lead in a District 6-4A boys basketball match up of county rivals.
In the next six minutes of game time, the host Tigers outscored Belen 27-11 to secure the 65-54 win.
Los Lunas, 16-5 overall and 6-0 in 6-4A after the Belen win, leads the district race over Gallup (4-2) and Grants (3-3). The Tigers were set to visit Grants on Tuesday, and Belen (7-12, 2-4) had a scheduled trip to Gallup. Both contests were set to begin after News-Bulletin press time.
With a two-game edge, Tiger coach Travis Julian noted the season has a long way to go.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Julian said. “Our goal is to win this district and we haven’t done that. We keep reminding each other of that.”
The Eagles are almost in a “must-win” situation for every game remaining on the schedule. They need all five wins to even their season mark and have a winning district record.
Belen coach Pat Mondragon liked the effort he got from the Eagles, explaining that the intensity was better than the unexplainable losses to Miyamura and Grants recently.
“I thought we played a lot harder than we did Thursday night (in a 44-40 home loss to Grants),” said Mondragon. “We had some defensive miscues that hurt us a little bit.
After trailing 32-23 at the half, Antonio Chavez and Martin led the charge to give the Eagles the brief one-point edge. Chavez scored 10 in the third quarter and Martin put Belen ahead. He had a chance to make it a bigger lead when he was grabbed on the arm going up for a follow up shot, but the official called Martin for a “phantom” push.
“There were some close calls, and I think it had a big effect on our kids,” said Mondragon. “There were three calls at the end of third quarter that went against us and I don’t think the kids responded well to the adversity of the officials. It changed the momentum.”
Los Lunas regained the lead on two Chris Sanchez free throws. The talented junior turned in the play of the game to end the third period.
Following a Belen turnover with 5.2 seconds left, Sanchez threw a long pass to Jacob Holland near half court. Holland flipped the ball to Sanchez racing full speed down court.
Sanchez split two defenders and laid the ball off the glass to give Los Lunas a 44-39 lead.
Dakota Eward hit a trey followed by another Sanchez steal and lay up to put the Tigers back up by 10 points, 49-39.
Holland put the game out of reach with a 3-pointer in the deep right corner with slightly more than two minutes left to give Los Lunas a 63-49 lead.
“We were patient, and passed the ball around a lot which was why I was able to get off a good shot,” said Holland. “After that it seemed like they didn’t know what to do with us.”
Unselfish play and teamwork were the reason Holland gave for the Tiger’s late season success. Los Lunas has won 10 straight.
“We didn’t lose focus,” said Holland. “We played together, instead of freaking out and falling apart.”
“We trust our coach in getting us to where we need to be,” said the junior guard. “We have all come to realize what it’s going take to be a really great team, and we have gained trust with each other which really strengthened our connections on the court.”
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