Tigers, Eagles find some success in tourney play

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It was tournament time for the Belen and Los Lunas girls basketball teams in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, while the Valencia continued to tear through its pre-district schedule, scoring their fifth win in six away games.

The Tigers held off a comeback from Española Valley in Friday’s semifinal game to set up a rematch with defending tournament champions Hope Christian in the championship game at Albuquerque Academy Saturday.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS’ ALYSSA VIGIL (11) drives against the Hope Christian defense during the championship game of the Joe Armijo Classic.

Keying on Teige Zeller, the Huskies came out with box-and-1 and diamond-and-1 defenses to keep the ball out of the senior posts’ hands and force the Tigers to shoot from outside.

Meanwhile, Hope got its own inside-outside game going, racing to a 15-5 lead in the first quarter on their way to a 31-21 halftime lead. The Huskies then spread the court and went into a stall over the final 12 minutes of the game.

Neither team made a field goal in the fourth quarter and combined to score just three points total — all from the free throw line.

Zeller scored a team high 12 points for Los Lunas (3-2) and Elise Tapia added 10 points. Zeller was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Teammate Sanae Gaerlan was named to the All-Tournament Team.

“When you get down 17 points against a good team, that’s not going to beat itself, it’s tough,” said coach Marty Zeller. “They proved they’re a sound, fundamentaly smart ball club. Not many teams have played a box-and-1 on Teige. We just had to knock down shots.”

Against Española Valley on Friday, the Tigers had to fight back twice from late deficits to win 52-50 in the semifinal game, which was played at 8 a.m. due to a schedule shift to accommodate both Los Alamos teams, which returned home for a student’s funeral on Friday.

The Tigers led 31-27 at halftime, but the Sundevils battled back to make this interesting at the end of the game.

“They missed a free throw, we made big free throws,” Zeller said. “At the end, Jordan (Holland) blocked out on a free throw and they tried to trap her. We threw out of the trap to Teige and they fouled her. It was just a mistake on their part.”

Teige Zeller paced LLHS with 20 points against EVHS, while Alyssa Vigil added 11 points.

In Thursday’s opening round, Los Lunas went on a 30-19 run in the second and third quarters against Los Alamos, ultimately beating the Hilltoppers 70-55 in the opening game of the tournament Thursday. Zeller scored a game-high 28 points in the win. Gaerlan added 14.

“Last year we finished third and we lost to Hope with thier eight seniors,” Coach Zeller said. “Then we came back in Hope’s tournament and lost by one. Hopefully this year we’ll go into Hope and get revenge.”

The Tigers started the week with a surprise loss at home to Valley High School. LLHS led 36-25 at halftime but was out-scored 32-18 in the second half to drop their first game of the season.

Coach Zeller said despite the two early losses, the team is developing well.

“This team is resilient,” he said. “When they get down or when a team makes a comeback, they show their true identity. It’s a young team. There’s some things we have to work on. But it’s early days — it’s not panic time.

Los Lunas travels to play its lone game of the week Saturday at West Mesa High School in Albuquerque before traveling to the Alamogordo VFW Tournament next weekend.

Belen earned a win on night one of the Capital City Invitational at Santa Fe High, but fell short on Friday and Saturday, playing without junior Mariah Forde.

Forde finished with a double-double, scoring 26 points and pulling down 13 rebounds to lead Belen (4-2) to a convincing 54-37 defeat of West Las Vegas Thursday night.

The Eagles started the game with a 17-10 first-quarter bulge and continued to pour it on, taking a 32-20 halftime lead. Belen shot a solid 32 percent in the game. Junior Arianna Valdez added nine points and senior Kristian Sainz had nine rebounds against the Lady Dons.

Forde departed before the game against the Lady Horsemen due to a family emergency, and Belen felt her absence as the Lady Horsemen took a 17-10 first quarter lead.

The Eagles countered in the second quarter and trailed 26-22 at halftime. But BHS was out-scored in the final two quarters in the loss.

Juniors Alexis Begay and Valdez scored nine and eight points, respectively, to pace Belen. Sainz pulled in 11 rebounds.

In the third-place game Saturday, the Eagles led 28-17 at halftime, but scored just six points in the final two quarters. BHS led 31-27 going into the final quarter, but were outscored 19-3 in the final quarter.

Sainz posted a double-double for the Eagles with 12 points and 16 rebounds, while Begay added six points.

Belen plays at Artesia Friday night. After that road trip, the Eagles don’t play again until the New Year, hosting Los Alamos on Jan. 4.

In their lone game of the week, the Jaguars’ swarming defense held Capital to single-digit scoring in all four quarters to claim a dominating 65-17 win in Santa Fe on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Senior Brenda Baeza and sophomore Raeanne Hererra scored 16 and 14 points respectively to lead all scorers, out-scoring the northern Jaguars all on their own.

“We were able to use multiple presses to get us going, to get us in our flow,” said assistant coach Manuel Vigil.

Valencia (2-1) sprinted out to a 22-7 first quarter lead, then shut down the Jaguars totally in the second quarter, allowing just two points to take a 36-9 halftime lead. Capital scored just two points again in the fourth quarter and hit just nine field goals on the night and shot only one free throw.

Savannah Stump added nine points for VHS, while freshman point guard Lorien Aragon had eight points and the Jaguars went 15-of-19 from the free throw line.

“We had been struggling with our rebounding, but we’ve been working on that and it showed (against Capital),” Vigil said.

Valencia hosted Moriarty Tuesday night, winning 64-16 and travel to play at Albuquerque Del Norte Friday night. Look for complete coverage of both games in next Thursday’s News-Bulletin.

The Jags travel to the Alamogordo VFW Tournament next weekend.