District perfection

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Seeking perfection is something that seldom comes along in sports. On Friday night, the Tigers boys basketball team achieved perfection, running thought the District 6-4A regular season and tournament without a loss.

Los Lunas (22-5) had to survive a comeback scare from a scrappy Belen (12-15) team that made a fourth-quarter run. The Tigers won, 55-48, but not before some anxious moments.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Zach Martin hits an inside shot against Los Lunas post Quentin Mullins. The Tigers got the better of the Eagles, 55-48, in the District 6-4A championship game Friday night at Los Lunas.

Los Lunas moves on to the Class 4A state tournament, winners of 16 straight, as the No. 3 seed.

Belen was left out of the field of 16 teams.

The season that exceeded expectations was especially perfect for first-year coach Travis Julian and son, Ben Romero.

Romero is playing his senior season with teammates from Los Lunas Middle School after attending Manzano for three years where Julian coached.

“It has been very special to be able to coach in the community where we have lived for 17 years,” said Julian. “It was a tough decision for Ben to leave his friends and teammates at Manzano. But we are very blessed right now.”

Jacob Holland led the scoring with 20 points and Romero scored 17. Romero was named Most Valuable Player in the district and Julian was named the coach of the year.

“There is no MVP,” said Romero. “This MVP goes to the whole team. That is why there is a team trophy. We hang out a lot together and we know each other and we trust each other.”

The trust is evident in no-look passes on fast breaks and teammates passing up individual shots to get a better opportunity. It led the Tigers to a 42-25 lead going into the final period.

“I am at a loss for words right now,” said Julian. “You expend so much energy and effort to get here, that when it happens, it is kind of anticlimactic. You’re just spent.”

Belen got 3-pointers from Colton Lewis, Thomas Cordova and Ray Montoya to spur the fourth-quarter comeback.

Post player Zach Martin scored 11 of his 17 points in the final quarter. Lewis finished with 13 points.

Eagle coach Pat Mondragon noted that his team had traveled to Gallup, and beat the Bengals, 66-63, just two nights prior.

“I think that our kids are a little worn out,” said Mondragon “We played five games in eight days. I think if there was one more minute, we might have won it.”

Mondragon was disappointed that the Eagles’ season ended without making the state tournament.

“They have never given up and they play hard to the end. They did that again (against Los Lunas),” said Mondragon.

“We are proud of our kids, because a week ago we didn’t know if we would even be considered. I think we did enough to get in.”

The season continues for Los Lunas with Romero and company wanting one more perfect string of games. Four wins would bring a state championship back to their home town.

“I remember coming back in May when I found out my dad got the job here and I was overjoyed to come back to my old team,” said Romero. “This is where I started.”


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