Short-handed Tigers fall to Centennial; Belen road is rough

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The Centennial boys basketball team came to Los Lunas Friday and got a measure of revenge against the Tigers on the hard court as the Hawks beat LLHS 57-51 in the Tigers’ season opener.

Senior wing Jacob Holland scored a game-high 18 points, going 10-of-13 from the free throw line in the loss as Los Lunas (0-1) played without senior standouts Randy Moore, Sasha Gonzales and Chris Sanchez, all of whom were still nursing minor injuries from the football season, said coach Travis Julian.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS’ JACOB HOLLAND calls for a time out after recovering a loose ball during the Tigers 57-53 loss to Centennial Friday night at Los Lunas High School.

“We knew it was going to be difficult since we only had some of the guys (practicing) for three days,” Julian said. “That was very evident with our offense execution.

“We struggled to execute offensively and became a one-on-one team. That’s not the way we want to play,” he said.

The inactive trio of seniors, along with Jacob Holland, were all instrumental in the Tiger football team’s 51-10 playoff win over Centennial in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.

On Friday, the Hawks got going early, sprinting out to an 18-13 first quarter lead with a fluid offensive performance and a man-to-man defense that produced four LLHS turnovers.

The Tigers struggled to get their offensive flow going in the first half and trailed 31-24 at half time. Los Lunas rallied to cut Centennial’s lead to 37-34 by the end of the low-scoring third quarter.

But LLHS would get no closer as the Hawks’ guard/post combo of Cesar Molina and Ricardo Garay, both combined to score 13 of Centennial’s 20 fourth-quarter points. Garay finished with 13 points, while Molina scored 11 and the Hawks finished with four players in double figures.

Senior Chad Murphy scored 12 points and hit three 3-pointers for Los Lunas, while freshman Kaiden Walker added nine points in the loss.

Julian said his team’s slow starts in both halves were largely due to the game “being the first game of the year.”

Kenn Rodriguez- News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS’ Jalen Chavez (10), Kayden Walker (23), and Josiah Sanchez (2) and Jacob Holland (partially obscured) set up their defene against Las Cruces Centennial Friday night in the Tigers’ season opener at Los Lunas High School.

“It’s going to take the guys a while to get their game legs under them,” he said. “As for us coming back at the end of each half, you can attribute that to the fact that these guys are competitors. I told the guys I appreciate that and I appreciate that they’ll go out and fight and compete with anyone.”

Julian said he wasn’t worried about the loss.

“We just need to get some practices with a full team under our belts,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”

Los Lunas plays at future district opponent Santa Teresa tonight and will play at Rio Grande Saturday. Look for results of both games in next Thursday’s News-Bulletin.

The Eagles started the 2013-14 season with road games, falling 81-58 at Atrisco Heritage Academy on Tuesday, Dec. 3, and 79-43 to Roswell Saturday in the Eastern New Mexico University Tip-Off Classic.

Against the Jaguars in the season opener, the Eagles got a team-high 17 points from senior Colton Lewis but gave up 31 points in the fourth quarter as AHA ran away at the end.

“We felt like we could compete with them but we knew it would be a pretty tough challenge,” said coach Patrick Mondragon. “I was pleased with the effort.

“I don’t feel that the final score reflected how the game went,” he said. “We were close for three quarters. But they’re a very athletic team that took over and finished the game well.”

Against Roswell, which was a Final Four team in Class 4A in 2012-13, the Eagles came out strong to start, trailing just 15-10 after the first quarter. But the Coyotes scored 25 second-quarter points to take a 40-20 lead and never looked back, moving to 3-0 with the win. Lewis again led the Eagles with 19 points.

“They are one of top teams 4A, and one of the reasons we accepted the game was to measure ourselves,” Mondragon said. “We knew it was going to be a challenge to take a long trip and play the same afternoon. We wanted to put the team in an adverse situation and do some character building.

Mondragon said that he nd his staff founda lot of bright spots in the loss.

“We still have a few things to work on,” he said. “(But) one of the strong points was that even though we had quite a few turnovers, for the most part our guards handled the ball well. We also played some pretty good defense, which is something I harped on.”

Mondragon said his young Eagles were bothered by both AHA and Roswell’s up-temo offense, but he still found positives with his team’s play.

“We didn’t do well with the fast tempo but it’s something to learn from,” the coach said.