Los Lunas holds serve in district girls tourney

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Class 4A top-ranked Los Lunas had little trouble with Miyamura on Thursday night in one District 6-4A semifinal girls basketball game; downing the Patriots, 64-51.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Karina Dow lifts a shot over a Gallup defender during Thursday night’s loss to the Bengals. Gallup is set to visit Los Lunas for the district crown and all three teams will await Sunday’s Class 4A state tournament selections.

But on the other side of the county, Valencia could not get the season sweep over last year’s state runner-up Gallup, losing to the Bengals, 51-28, after winning the two regular season games against the Bengals.

It sets up the District championship match on Saturday night in front of what is sure to be a packed house full of frenzied fans on both sides.

Gallup will visit Los Lunas with both teams having won on their home court during the regular season. Tip off is slated for 7 p.m.

“Playing them will certainly get us ready for state,” said Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller. “If we beat them, I don’t see any reason why we should not be the number one seed in the upcoming state tournament.”

Due to their regular-season first place finish, Los Lunas is assured a berth in the tournament, which begins Friday, March 8 on school sites of the higher seed.

The selections will be announced on a webcast on www.proviewnetworks.com, beginning at noon on Sunday. The brackets will be posted on the New Mexico Activities Association website following the webcast.

Valencia will be waiting to see where the selection committee puts them with their second-place regular season finish.

“This district has just prepared all of us for state,” said Jaguar coach Shannon Vigil. “We think that a five-to-eight seed would be good.”

Los Lunas 64, Miyamura 51

Teige Zeller pumped in 27 points and Los Lunas controlled the first half on the way to a 30-20 halftime edge.

“We had control of the game throughout, but we never put it away,” said coach Zeller.

The Tiger coach was impressed with senior Tinaya Murphy in the dominating win. He noted that the Patriots paid special attention to Murphy after she scored 18 points in the first meeting between the two teams.

Murphy scored 15 against the Patriots in the semifinal contest.

“She did such a good job,” said Zeller, “especially with Miyamura shadowing her because the first time we played them she was the leading scorer.”

Nikki Hathoot led the first quarter explosion, scoring seven of her nine points to stake Los Lunas to a 16-11 lead.

Miyamura closed to within eight points in the third quarter, but by the end of the period, Los Lunas had stretched the lead back to 45-34.

Danielle Chee led the Patriots with 13 points.

Gallup 51, Valencia 28

It took Valencia nearly four minutes to score their first field goal in a defensive first quarter. During that time, Gallup built a 9-2 lead that they never relinquished.

“It was just a very bad shooting night. We knew playing them a third time would be very hard to win it,” said Vigil. “We had a lot of turnovers in the first half. There are going to be bad shooting nights, but you can not have a bad defensive night.”

Valencia was led by Karina Dow and Miranda Chavez with eight points each, while Savannah Stump added six.

Gallup was paced by 13 points from Shanel Begay, who hit two 3-pointers in the game.

Gallup 57, Belen 50

Entering the playoffs as the district’s No. 6 seed, Belen almost pulled the upset of the season.

With 2:48 left in the game, the Eagles tied the score at 48-all in front of a stunned crowd.

A turnover and a quick Bengal bucket had Gallup on top once again and they rode the rest of the game out at the free throw line. Gallup shot 15-of-22 from the line, while Belen was 7-of-11.

While it is doubtful that the Lady Eagles will make the tournament, coach Derek Atencio holds out hope since Belen has played a very strong schedule this year.

“I thought in terms of the team and the program that we made some strides to improve the program,” said Atencio. “The kids were a joy to be around and wanted to get better every day. I thought it was a very positive experience.”

The committee would have to take all six teams from the district in order for Belen to qualify, according to NMAA by-laws.

Mariah Forde led the Eagles with 16 points. Jordan Rodriguez is the only senior on Belen’s roster and she scored nine.

Atencio noted that the Eagles will miss her senior leadership next year, although they have a strong core coming back.

“She did a lot of things that didn’t end up in the stat sheet,” said the Eagle coach. “She was a tremendous leader on and off the floor.”


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