Zeller pours in 25 to lead Lady Tigers to the Pit

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It looked as if top-seed Los Lunas was going to struggle with the No. 16 Goddard Rockets on the Lady Tigers' home court Friday night.

Then the second quarter started.

Junior post Teige Zeller got going, as did the Tiger defense, as Los Lunas went on to a 65-43 opening round win in the Class 4A girls state tournament.

Los Lunas faced Los Alamos at the University of New Mexico Arena in a game that began after News-Bulletin press time Tuesday. Readers can go to www.news-bulletin.com for a wrap on the quarterfinal contest, as well as Thursday's possible semifinal meeting with the winner of the St. Pius-Española Valley game.

Los Lunas outscored the Rockets 25-8 to take charge in the second quarter after only leading 14-11 at the end of the first period.

"We made a little bit of an adjustment to just keep the ball out of the middle defensively," said coach Marty Zeller. "That made all of the difference in the world."

By denying the ball into the post, Los Lunas was able to convert turnovers into points at the other end.

"Steals created some easy buckets for us," said Zeller. "The second quarter was the difference."

After only tallying four points in the first period, Teige was able to put up seven in second, six in the third and eight in the final quarter.

"It is pretty typical that everyone is going to try and pack it in early and double and triple team her," said Teige's father and coach. "She is a great passer from the inside. Then we just started knocking down some threes."

Elise Tapia helped fuel the rally by hitting a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter and another in the second. She finished with six points.

"I have been talking to Elise all year long about her being money," said Zeller. "She has a sweet shot."

Seniors Tinaya Murphy and Nikki Hathoot each had a couple of treys in the win. Murphy finished with six points, while Hathoot added 12. Kaitlyn Thompson also added in six points for the Tigers.

Goddard was led by Abbre Blach, with 14 points, and Courtney Vialpando, with 12.

Goddard scored 18 of their 43 points from the free throw line. Los Lunas held the Rocket offense to just 12 field goals in the game.

The Tigers increased their 37-19 halftime edge to 55-27 at the end of the of the third quarter.

Coach Zeller took care of the pre-game jitters that his team was experiencing by substituting five players into the game in the first minute.

"It was about getting 10 people in the game right away," said Zeller, noting that it allowed his starters to catch a breath. "It was about getting the starters to relieve the nerves right away."

As the No. 1 seed, Zeller expected to make it to the quarterfinals and play on the Lobos' home court. But he was no less thrilled than if they had been an underdog.

"It will be nice," Zeller said, rubbing his chin, "and we are looking forward to playing in the Pit."


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