Los Lunas gets 17th straight win


Los Lunas

Santa Fe, the No. 14 seed, proved to be a little better than expected, but Los Lunas was able to handle a fourth quarter rally and post a 76-68 win over the Demons on Saturday night.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Tiger Quentin Mullins claws his way to a rebound and a bucket in Saturday night’s 76-68 first round win in the Class 4A state tournament at Los Lunas. Santa Fe could not match the senior’s intensity and Los Lunas is on the way to a Wednesday meeting with Capital in the quarterfinals at the Pit. Tip off is slated for 6:30 p.m.

The No. 3 seed Tigers advance to the Class 4A quarterfinals tonight to face another Santa Fe team, Capital, at 6:30 p.m. in the Pit.

Capital, the No. 6 seed, won Saturday night over No. 11 seed Moriarty, 50-39, to advance to the Pit.

Should Los Lunas win against the Jaguars, the Tigers would advance to the semifinals in the Pit to face the winner of the game between last year’s state champion Santa Teresa and St. Pius. Tip off is expected about 3 p.m. on Thursday.

“It is exciting,” said Tiger coach Travis Julian. “That is what we set out to do at the beginning of the year, so we are seeing some of our goals fall into place for us.”

Capital comes into the quarterfinal with a 22-8 record after finishing behind Bernalillo in District 2-4A. Los Lunas (23-5) is riding a 17-game winning streak after completing a perfect slate through District 6-4A.

Christian Martinez is the leading scorer for the Jaguars and will match up with Los Lunas’ leading scorer Ben Romero. Both players are averaging near 20 points a game.

Against Santa Fe, the Tigers took a 24-12 lead into halftime and put together an 8-1 run to start the third quarter to build a 32-13 lead.

But the Demons would not let Los Lunas get any further ahead as they started hitting some long-range shots.

Elliot Nicholas, 24 points, and Wyatt Honstein, 21 points, hit a couple of 3-pointers apiece to lead the charge.

Los Lunas led 49-32 going into the final quarter. Santa Fe cut the edge to 13 points, when senior Dakota Eward took the dribble out of Honstein’s hand and raced to the Tiger end of the court.

He sliced between two Demon defenders and lifted a soft finger-roll shot clean through the net.

“I just saw the ball loose and got it and tried to go score,” said Eward of the pivotal play. “There was no one in front of me.”

It stopped the rally for a few moments as Los Lunas took the lead back out to 62-43.

Santa Fe went on a 15-6 run to close within 10, with 1:04 left. The Demons cut into the lead with full-court pressure defense that created several Tiger turnovers.

Senior Quentin Mullins was key down the stretch, hitting two free throws late in the game after Santa Fe had closed the score to 70-63. He then drew a charge on defense to essentially seal the win with 32 seconds left.

“I don’t have tomorrow guaranteed, so I have to give it my all right now,” said Mullins of his last game on the Tigers’ home court. “I am just trying to let it all soak in. I definitely am going to miss it. I mean, it has been four years here and it is like a second home to me.”

“I am very proud of the players,” said Julian. “These kids have done everything I have asked them to do. The fans have jumped on board.”

Romero led the Tiger scoring with 21 points. Four of the five starters hit double-digits, including 12 from Chris Sanchez, 11 points from Jacob Holland, and 10 from Mullins. Eward was close, putting in nine points.

“I am very blessed to be here,” said Julian, leading the rallying cry to the University Arena. “Lets all go to the Pit and represent Los Lunas in a proud way.”

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