Los Lunas hustles to road win at Grants

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There were moments where it looked as if the host Pirates would make a game of it in Tuesday’s District 6-4A boys basketball contest between Los Lunas and Grants.

News-Bulletin file photo: Chris Sanchez was a major contributor in the Los Lunas boys’ 64-49 win at Grants on Tuesday. The Tigers play at Miyamura on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and end the regular season at Valencia High on Saturday, Feb. 23.

But a Jacob Holland lay-in or a scrambling play by Chris Sanchez was enough to lift the Tigers to a league-leading 7-0 record after a convincing 64-49 win over the Pirates, 3-4 in district after the home loss.

Los Lunas (17-5 overall) was scheduled to host Gallup (14-8, 5-2) Friday after News-Bulletin press time. A win would clinch the district crown for the Tigers.

Two scheduled road contests will conclude the regular season for Los Lunas next week with visits to Miyamura on Tuesday and at Valencia on Saturday. Both games are set to begin at 7 p.m.

Although Los Lunas led by as much as a dozen points in the first half of Tuesday’s game, Grants was able to close the gap to 34-28 at the break.

The first indication that Los Lunas was in complete control came just 1:32 into the second half.

A steal and long pass down to Ben Romero started the break. Romero hit Jacob Holland in the lane with a pass. The junior guard spun to the right, reversed direction, spun left and lifted a one-handed floater over two Grants defenders that swished cleanly through the net.

With the athletic move, Los Lunas was up by 10 again, 40-30. It was clear that Grants was not going to keep up with the quickness or athletic moves of the Tigers.

Still, Grants closed the gap to within 44-40 with 34 seconds left in the third quarter. Romero hit a free throw just before the quarter ended to make it 45-40 in favor of the Tigers.

Another fast break stretched the lead back out to double-digits. Romero fed Chris Sanchez and the junior caught the ball and laid it in off the glass in one fluid motion. Los Lunas led 50-40.

Holland scored moments later on a spinning lay up and Josiah Stewart of Grants fouled out trying to stop him. Los Lunas led 52-40 with 4:54 left in the game.

With time waning, Grants had to foul. Ishmael Melton reached to foul Romero, who was crossing over in front of the Grants player. The foul must have come with some inappropriate language, because Melton received a technical and Romero hit two free throws.

The final play that drove Los Lunas’ athletic ability home to the Grants crowd came on a near steal at half court. Grants double-teamed Eward and the ball came loose.

Sanchez made a diving leap to tip the ball upcourt just as two Grants players were converging on the ball. Eward scooped it up and laid the ball off the glass to make it 61-45.

The Tigers had four players in double-figures, led by Holland with 17 points. Romero had 15, while Eward and Sanchez added 11 points each.

Josiah Stewart led Grants with 12 points and Ryan Garcia added 10.

At this point, Los Lunas can finish no lower than second place in the district race, meaning they would have a bye to the second round of the district playoffs.

The format changed this year to have the top two teams play the winners of the first round games, instead of the second seed waiting for the winner of the early round and the top seed having a bye to the district championship game.


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