Los Lunas girls outlast Jags

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When Los Lunas and Valencia met for the District 6-4A regular-season championship Friday night on the Tigers' home court, a couple of things became evident in the 48-44 Tiger win.

Los Lunas (22-4, 9-1) took control of the game early, showing that they are the team to beat in the district — and possibly in all of Class 4A.

Valencia (19-7, 7-3) showed that they should be highly regarded in the state playoffs, as they came back to cut the lead to four after trailing by 14 in the final quarter.

Belen (7-17, 1-9 in 6-4A) finished the regular season with a loss to Grants (13-13, 4-6) at home on Friday, 58-54.

The district playoffs began Tuesday night with No. 6 seed Belen traveling to No. 3 Gallup in a game that began after the News-Bulletin went to press. No. 5 Miyamura also visited No. 4 Grants.

Los Lunas, as the top seed, will host the lowest remaining seed after Tuesday's games. Valencia will host the highest remaining seed. Both games are set for 7 p.m. Thursday.

The winners of the two Thursday games will meet for the district title on the home court of the highest remaining seed on Saturday.

The state playoff brackets will be announced in a webcast on www.proviewnetworks.com, beginning at 12 p.m. on Sunday. The brackets will be posted on the New Mexico Activities Association website, www.nmact.org, following the proview web program.

Los Lunas 48, Valencia 44

For three quarters, coach Marty Zeller was not concerned on the Tiger bench. But the fourth quarter had the Los Lunas coach chomping at the bit.

The Tigers built a 36-22 lead in the third quarter on a foul and technical, both whistled against Miranda Chavez of Valencia. Katie Inman hit one-of-two free throws for the foul and Tinaya Murphy buried two charity tosses for the technical.

But the game swung the Jags' way instead of the host Tigers' in the final quarter.

Valencia's Karina Dow hit a trey to make it 46-40 with 2:01 left. The Tigers went inside to Teige Zeller and the junior post player, who scored 24 in the game, hit a baby hook to make it 48-40.

Norene Archuteta hit a 3-pointer to bring it back to 48-43 with 30 seconds left.

But the Tigers got the ball across half court and were able to take the clock down to 12 seconds before giving it back to the Jags. Dow hit a free throw to bring the final total to 48-44.

"I think the toughest thing is that you make sure that you keep your composure, said coach Zeller after the game. "We needed to push the ball and not get a 10-second call. This team knows how to attack. They did that well."

Jag coach Shannon Vigil liked the fire her team showed in the fourth quarter when the Jags outscored Los Lunas 20-12.

"They have always had that no-quit attitude," said Vigil. "This is a tough team that we played. We know that Teige will get her points. We just have to limit the other girls. We did that better in the fourth quarter."

Dow led the Jags with 14 points and Chavez added nine.

In addition to Zeller's 24, Murphy scored 13 points for Los Lunas.

Grants 58, Belen 54

Although the Lady Eagles finished with only one district win and seven wins overall, the team more than doubled its win output from a season ago.

But the most telling thing about how much improvement Belen has seen is in the closeness of the contests within the toughest district in Class 4A. Four of the teams are ranked in the top 10, with Grants at 11th and Belen at 16th, according to www.Maxpreps.com.

Of the 10 district games, only Los Lunas has beaten Belen by more than 10 points. Last year, the margin was 29 points and the Eagles only came within 10 points once.

Belen trailed by 10 at the half, 33-23, but with six minutes left, they had cut the Grants lead to just three.

The Eagles took a two-point lead for a couple of minutes in the fourth quarter, but Pirate guard Sydney Mares took over. Mares hit 19-of-21 free shots and finished with 21 points.

"We started as bad as we possibly could and went in at halftime and regrouped," said first-year coach Derek Atencio. "We came out and played as well as we possibly could. We just could not overcome Sydney Mares. She just did not miss any free throws."

Mariah Forde led the Eagles with 24 points.

Atencio hopes that the Eagles can upset a few teams in the district playoffs.

"If we can put everything together the right way and play like we are capable of playing, then I like our chances."