Los Lunas girls victorious in overtime

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There had to be mixed emotions for Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller in the final 10 seconds of regulation Thursday night as his Tigers hosted Grants, his former team, in a key District 6-4A girls basketball tilt.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Forcing her way through traffic, Los Lunas senior Tinaya Murphy goes up for a bucket in the Lady Tigers’ 60-51 overtime win Thursday night. Los Lunas is set to visit Gallup on Saturday night and could clinch the district title with a win and a Valencia loss at Grants.

With Los Lunas ahead 49-45, Zeller’s former player, Brianna Fank, spotted up in the left corner for a 3-pointer. The ball went cleanly through the net and she was fouled. Fank went to the line and sank the shot to send the game into overtime.

Nikki Hathoot scored seven points in the extra frame to lead Los Lunas to a 60-51 victory. The Tigers have moved to the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A this week, according to www.MaxPreps.com. Their 20-3 record, 7-0 in 6-4A.

“I taught her how to shoot those threes, you know that,” said Tiger coach Marty Zeller of his former Grants student Fank’s big shot to tie the game.

“She was not a 3-point shooter. Ask her, ask her mom. I taught her that when I was coaching at Grants.”

Los Lunas’ toughest district test will come in a 7 p.m. scheduled game at Gallup on Saturday. The Bengals are 16-6 and 4-3 in district. The Tigers finish the regular season hosting Miyamura on Tuesday and Valencia on Friday.

In the same breath of celebrating Fank’s success, Zeller noted his Tigers’ capacity for always having a way to respond, calling them his “tenacious Tigers.”

He praised Hathoot’s clutch baskets in the first quarter to stem the Pirates closing the gap in the first half. He also noted that the senior hit five of six free throws in the overtime, including two technical shots, and a bucket for seven of the 11 points in the extra period. Zeller, who finished with a game-high 22 points, had the other four points in the extra frame.

“What a competitor,” said Zeller of his daughter’s never-say-die attitude. “When the game is on the line, Teige is going to step up.”

Leading 29-22 at the half, grants came back to tie the game at the end of the third quarter 35-all.

“Our seven-point lead dwindled,” said Zeller. “They even went up on us. As soon as that happened the character of this team came through, they just did not want to lose, especially at home.”

The fourth quarter went back and forth, with Los Lunas leading most of the quarter. Zeller noted that an uncharacteristic lapse from the free throw line kept Grants in the game.

“We didn’t hit free throws in the fourth quarter,” said Zeller, noting a 6-of-17 mark from the line. “It never should have gotten to overtime. We could have won this game by 10, easily.”

In addition to Zeller’s 22, Hathoot scored 14, Tinaya Murphy scored 12, Katie Inman had five points, Domique Pohl and Elise Tapia had three each and Alyssa Vigil scored one.

Fank led the Grants scoring with 11 points, while Sydney Mares contributed 10.


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