Los Lunas girls win thriller

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It was the very best basketball from the very best district in girls Class 4A Bbasketball on Saturday night in front of a sea of orange-clad fans on one side of the gym and a sea of blue on the other.

Los Lunas captured a thrilling double-overtime win over Gallup, 59-58. It was arguably the best game of the year in District 6-4A. It was certainly the closest throughout.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Dominique Pohl, right, plays tough defense in Los Lunas’ district title win over Gallup.

The biggest lead of the night was eight points when Gallup went on an 8-0 run to make it 28-20 late in the first half. The game was tied at the end of the first, third and fourth quarters.

Tied at 50-all going into the second overtime, Tinaya Murphy gave Los Lunas the edge by hitting a 3-pointer from the right corner just 15 seconds in.

The teams battled back-and-forth when senior guard Nikki Hathoot missed a trey, got her own rebound inside and put up a perfect shot from 10 feet on the baseline. The Tigers led 57-53.

“Everyone boxes out Teige (Zeller) and goes after her. It leaves us open on the outside to do something,” said Hathoot. “I think it has a lot to do with experience. I don’t think I could have done this my sophomore or junior year.”

Gallup came back to take a 58-57 lead. Zeller responded with a layup with 20 seconds left and two blocked shots at the defensive end to preserve the 59-58 win.

The junior post player noted that after picking up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game, she was going to be certain to be around for the finish. She did not pick up another foul until the second overtime.

“That is just something you have to know with experience, I guess,” said Zeller. “I was not being very smart. I should have known that they would come after me.”

Coach Marty Zeller, with his voice still barely audible after the tense game, talked about the team effort and his seniors, Hathoot and Tinaya Murphy.

“We noticed that they kept pushing us out. Nikki is humble but she is hungry,” said the Tiger coach. “The whole team has learned about that, being humble and hungry from our two seniors.”

Zeller led the scoring with 19 points, but Hathoot had one of her best games of the year with 18. Murphy played most of the game in foul trouble, picking up her fourth foul just two minutes into the second quarter.

“I am not the kind of guy who is going to sit someone with four fouls,” said coach Zeller of Murphy. “She is so important, we can’t have her sit on the bench with four fouls.”

Murphy, who scored 13 points, and Hathoot hit four 3-pointers each.

“This was a total team effort. Katie (Inman) was incredible,” said Zeller. “In one of the last timeouts, I asked who would have the heart. I asked who would take the charge. Katie showed the heart by taking two charges.”

The coach was not the only Zeller to recognize the team after the classic home win.

“I am so proud of my girls tonight,” said Teige, “I didn’t think that I played very well. I am so happy for them for stepping it up. I love them all.”


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