Winning Ways

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The Los Lunas and Belen boys basketball teams both went undefeated on the week while Valencia gained some insight playing up north at the Española Tournament this past weekend.

Playing their first two games at home, the Eagles posted a pair of wins, edging Del Norte 42-41 Friday night and following that up with a dominant 66-46 win over Socorro Saturday night to go to 2-3 on the season.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN’S THOMAS CORDOVA (24) and John Michael Hicks (20) apply defensive pressure to Del Norte’s Chris Thomas (1) during the Eagles-Knights game at Belen High School Friday night.

On Friday, Belen’s Lucas Chavez hit the second of two free throws with six seconds left in the game to cap a fourth-quarter comeback that stunned the visiting Knights.

The two teams were tied 23-23 at half time, but a 11-3 burst in the third quarter gave Del Norte a 34-26 with less than a minute left in the third quarter.

The Eagles’ Colton Lewis, who led all scorers in the game with 22 points, sparked the rally for Belen (2-2) with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter.

“We were kind of down,” said coach Patrick Mondragon. “We were in foul trouble and a lot of calls weren’t going our way. Colton’ three gave us some hope. He kind of drives our team with energy and leadership. It was a big play and got us going for the fourth quarter.”

The game, which featured 56 fouls — 28 in each half — yet only had one Del Norte player foul out. Emilio Ulibari added nine points for Belen while Christopher Wright scored 15 points to pace the Knights, who fell to 1-4 on the season.

“We wanted to change the pace all night, we felt they’d find that difficult,” Mondragon said. “We wanted to keep the pressure on them and that ended up well. Our kids could have hung their head but they found a way to stick with it.”

On Saturday, Belen jumped out to an 18-9 lead on Socorro in another foul-heavy match up. The Eagles would hit 22-of-32 free throws and again got big scoring form Lewis, who scored a game-high 23 points in the win.

“The second half got kind of ugly, there were a lot of fouls called,” Mondragon said. “But I’m really please with how we came out, especially coming off a big game like the one the night before.

“We came out on fire (aaginst Socorro), caused quite a few turnovers. I could see some of the improvement from the night before.”

Belen out-scored the Warriors 21-10 in the second quarter to take a 39-19 halftime lead. Ulibarri added 12 points and Antonio Chavez had 10 in the win.

The Eagles next host future district foes Santa Teresa Friday night before traveling to the Poe Corn Tournament in Roswell next weekend.

The Tigers went on the road last week and returned with a pair of wins fueled by the return of guard Chris Sanchez.

The senior scored 12 points in a 44-29 win at Santa Teresa Thursday, then paced LLHS with 15 points, including seven points in the pivotal fourth quarter, as the Tigers beat Rio Grande 69-60.

Trailing 32-29 at halftime, Los Lunas held Rio Grande to 10 points in the third quarter and took a 47-42 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“We made adjustments on defense and took away their big gun (Dennis Lucero),” said coach Travis Julian. “Offensively, we told our guys that we had to get in the paint. We were very impatient (in the first half). Once we got in the paint, it opened up for us.”

The Ravens would cut the lead to 57-55 with just under three minutes to play. But the Tigers responded with an 12-5 run to close the game out.

Sanchez led all scorers with 15 points, while senior Chad Murphy added 13 and Wayne Byers and Jacob Holland each scored 11.

Against Santa Teresa, Los Lunas blew open a tight 8-7 game in the second quarter, out-scoring the Desert Warriors 11-5 to take a 19-12 halftime lead. The Tigers then went on a 16-9 third quarter scoring jag to put the game out of reach.

“It was a good win for us,” Julian said. “We played a really good defensive game and came out in the third quarter ad had a break out quarter. We played really good team ball in that quarter.”

Julian said he was happy with the team’s progress so far.

“We’re still a long ways away,” said Julian, “but every game we play is another opportunity for these guys to play together and that’s what these guys need.”

The Tigers host Bernalillo tonight, then host Alamogordo Saturday night before traveling to the Alamogordo VFW Tournament next weekend.

Valencia drew a tough first-round match up in the Española Invitational at Española Valley High School last weekend, playing the host Sundevils in one of the toughest venues in the state.

The Jaguars played Española Thursday, ultimately falling 71-59 Thursday to slide into the consolation bracket.

Valencia had a rough outing against Pueblo (Colo.) West Friday, losing 74-47, but rallied to give Alamosa (Colo.) a game before bowing out in a 64-60 loss Saturday afternoon.

Senior Josh Doyle was named to the all-tournament team.

Against the Sundevils, the Jags started well and led 34-33 at halftime, effectively silencing Española’s boisterous fans.

But the ‘Devils rebounded, out-scoring Valencia 18-12 in the third before closing the game out in the fourth quarter.

“We started out well,” said coach Hamilton Doyle. “We played some of our best basketball in the first half. We turned them over.

Doyle said he was surprised the Sundevils did not try to pressure the Jaguars more in the game.

“I thought they might come after our kids but we went after them,” he said. “They shot 28 free throws and we shot 15. I think if we played on a neutral court, we might have pulled it out.”

Daniel Silva led the Valencia with 21 points in the game.

In game two of the tournament, the Jags’ propensity for positioning post players to shoot from the perimeter bit them as the Cyclones blew out to a 24-5 first-quarter lead and never looked back.

“We didn’t do well over all,” Doyle said. “When we missed those threes; they got a lot of easy fast break opportunities. We saw our kids at their lowest (in the game) and really had to coach them through that.”

Josh Baca paced Valencia with 12 points against Pueblo West. Josh Doyle and Quentin Wanstall added nine points each.

After hitting a low point in game two, the Jaguars found their post game in the final game against Alamosa. A low-scoring affair in the first half, Valencia trailed 21-20 at halftime.

“We made a concerted effort to work on (post play) in the last game and it showed,” Doyle said. “The game showed that if we establish the post, we can balance things out.”

The Maroons out-scored the Jags 25-16 in the third quarter, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Valencia mounted a comeback in the fourth, out-scoring Alamosa 24-18 and hitting five 3-pointers, but fell just short in the end.

Josh Doyle led the team with 18 points, hitting six treys while Baca and Wanstall each added 11 points.

Valencia now hosts Del Norte Friday night before heading to the Alamogordo VFW Tournament next weekend.