Gallup hands LLHS first district loss; race tightens

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Just when it seemed the District 6-4A girls basketball race was panning out clearly, a traffic jam occurred — literally.

After spending two hours on a bus on I-40 Saturday, due to a crash somewhere near Bluewater, the Los Lunas Lady Tigers finally arrived at Gallup High shortly before 6 p.m. The Tigers went on to fall to the Lady Bengals, 51-48, to muddle the 6-4A race.

The loss dropped the Tigers to 20-4 overall and 7-1 in 6-4A, and it ended their nine-game winning streak. Los Lunas was set to host Miyamura after News-Bulletin press time, and is scheduled to complete the regular season by hosting Valencia at 7 p.m. Friday.

Gallup improved to 17-6 overall and 5-3 in 6-4A with the win. Valencia (18-6, 6-2) won 49-33 at Grants on Saturday.

The Tigers' loss was a frustrating one, partly because they missed a few second-half free throws, and partly because they blew a few leads in the game. LLHS coach Marty Zeller said the Tigers rallied to take a 44-43 lead, but the Bengals scored eight of the game's last 12 points to close it out.

"They hit some big free throws, and we didn't," said Zeller. "We just couldn't seal the deal."

The Tigers were within 51-48 with 4.6 seconds left after Katie Inman hit a pair of free throws. But Gallup's inbound pass went off a Bengal player's leg, and then a Tiger player's leg, and went out of bounds.

Gallup was able to then inbound the ball and run out the clock.

LLHS junior Teige Zeller, Marty's daughter, got into early foul trouble, and later picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter. She didn't play much in the fourth period, and ended up with 12 points.

Senior Tinaya Murphy led the Tigers with 13 points. Coach Zeller said Murphy completed an important 3-point play near the end of the third quarter, but was called for a questionable charge in the fourth period — a foul that gave momentum to the host Bengals.

Los Lunas made 13-of-19 free throws in the game, but missed three critical foul shots in the fourth quarter, said Zeller. He also said the Bengals came out in a zone defense at the start of the game, which featured a very large home crowd.

The coach said Gallup consistently forced Los Lunas' better perimeter shooters to catch the ball where they were not 3-point threats. LLHS did make seven 3-point shots to the Bengals' one.

Kaylee Tsingine led the Bengals with 11 points. Zeller said he was feeling ill during the game, and didn't have his usual loud voice.

On Friday, the Tigers will be hosting a Valencia team that they have already beaten twice this season. The outcome of Tuesday's games may add or subtract importance in the district standings, but it promises to be an intense rivalry game, in any case.

The District 6-4A tournament will be held next week, Feb. 26 to March 2, with the first round of the state playoffs set for Friday, March 8.


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