Belen boys shock Gallup

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When Belen sophomore Emilio Ulibarri stepped to the line with three seconds left, the Eagle faithful that had made the trip to Gallup Wednesday night knew they were seeing something special.

Ulibarri sank the two charity tosses to give Belen a 66-63 lead over the host Bengals.

A steal of the in-bounds pass sealed the improbable semifinal District 6-4A boys basketball playoff win over the stunned Bengals.

Belen (12-14 after Wednesday's win) is set to face the district's top seed at Los Lunas (21-5) in a Friday game that tipped off after the News-Bulletin press time. A win in that Friday game would guarantee the Eagles a playoff spot.

Coach Pat Mondragon thinks the Eagles are in with the win at Gallup, should they fall to the Tigers.

"If we are not there, then I would like to see from the committee who would be a better candidate," said the Belen coach.

Down early by as much as 15 points, the Eagles cut the halftime edge to 37-29. By the end of the third quarter, Belen had closed the gap to 47-44.

"We haven't been in these games," said Mondragon, proud of his team's growth over this season. "We have not been in big games where you have to win with something on the line."

Thomas Cordova tied the game with a clutch 3-pointer with four minutes to go.

Zach Martin, who scored a game-high 27 points, scored moments later to give Belen their first lead. The Eagles never trailed from that point, but the game was close the rest of the way.

With 20 seconds left and the Eagles clinging to a one-point lead, the Bengals set a play for their leading scorer, Darren Spencer, who scored 20.

"Colton Lewis was on him and played really good defense," said Mondragon. "We got a key defensive stop there."

Lewis was spectacular on the offensive side, hitting the first four baskets of the game, all 3-pointers for Belen. He finished with six treys and 24 points.

Ulibarri finished with nine points, Ray Montoya and Cordova had three points each.

"I actually have enjoyed watching this team play through that kind of tight game and figure out ways to win," said Mondragon. "It just gives us more confidence."


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