Eagles win fifth in a row; Jaguars take two for week

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The Belen boys basketball team won their fifth in a row while Valencia registered two straight wins. The Los Lunas boys split a pair of games at home.

All three teams head off to out-of-town tournaments this weekend — the Tigers and Jaguars head to the Alamogordo VFW Invitational, while the Eagles travel to the Roswell Poe Corn Invitational.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA’S JOSH DOYLE, left, drives the baseline during th Jaguars’ 70-52 win over Del Norte on Friday night at Valencia High School.

Los Lunas (4-2) is the county’s top-ranked team in the initial Max Preps Class 4A rankings at www.maxpreps.com, coming in seventh. Belen (4-2) is at No. 12, while Valencia (4-4) is at No. 16. Poe Corn co-hosts Roswell (7-0) are No. 1 this week.

Coming off a rough weekend at the Española Invitational, the Jaguars found their way back to a winning formula with a greater emphasis on the inside game, resulting in a pair of wins last week.

Valencia (4-4) traveled to Moriarty (6-5) on Tuesday, Dec. 17, and got big nights from post players Josh Baca and Daniel Silva, who scored 22 and 15 points, respectively, in the win. The Jags led 34-30 at halftime but trailed 60-58 after three quarters.

Valencia mounted a comeback in the fourth, out-scoring MHS 18-11 to claim the victory.

The Jaguars’ adjustments gave them a distinct advantage Friday night, as VHS out-dueled visiting Del Norte, winning 70-52.

Doyle said his team had been working on its inside-outside game and that paid off well against the Knights as Silva scored 18, mostly in the paint, while D.J. Heybourne scored 15 points.

Valencia hit eight three pointers in the game, three in the first quarter to take a 15-7 lead.

Up 30-15, the Jags withstood a charge by Del Norte in the third quarter, as the Knights out-scored Valencia 26-20. But VHS added to their nine-point fourth quarter lead in the fourth quarter to pull away late.

“It was our defense and being patient on offense that got us the win,” said Baca.

VHS now travels to the Alamogordo Invitational, where the Jags first take on Canutillo (Texas). The Eagles are 9-4 on the season.

The Tigers out-matched Class 4A Bernalillo on Thursday but were out-lasted by Class 5A Alamogordo Saturday afternoon to split their games for the week.

Against the Spartans, Los Lunas started slowly, trailing 20-16 after the first quarter. But the Tigers clamped down in the second quarter, allowing Bernalillo just seven points to take a 35-27 halftime lead and scored 44 second half points to cruise to a 79-56 win.

“We played pretty well as a team and shot really well,” said coach Travis Julian “We shared the ball well. We had a lot of good building blocks in that game.”

Senior Jacob Holland scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the pivotal third quarter. Fellow senior Chris Sanchez added 19 points and junior Chad Murphy scored 17 points.

Against Alamogordo on Saturday, Los Lunas again got big games from Holland and Sanchez but struggled without Sanchez at the point, which slowed them in the second and fourth quarters as the senior fell into foul trouble and would eventually foul out.

Down 30-28 at halftime, the northern Tigers worked their way back into the lead with a 7-0 run to start the second half.

But an Alamo 3-pointer to end the third quarter cut the LLHS lead to 52-49 and the southern Tigers would grab the lead on a made free throw with 2:04 left when Sanchez picked up his fifth foul.

Down 63-60 with 16 seconds left, Los Lunas had a chance to send the game to overtime but AHS’ Jo Jo Jones, who scored 20, stole the ball and raced in for a lay up to score the games’ final points with five seconds left.

“We started of well, I thought we had a really good first half but let them get back into it,” Julian said. “They schemed us and gave us some difficulty on offense. They made some good adjustments on us.”

The Tigers now match-up with Albuquerque’s Eldorado in the Alamogordo VFW tourney on Friday morning. The Class 5A Eagles are 3-2 on the season.

In a match of future district foes, the Eagle trailed early but broke the game open with 24 fourth-quarter points to beat the Desert Warriors.

Down 12-10 after the first quarter, Belen (4-2) turned the tables in the second quarter to take a 26-24 lead at halftime. Clinging to a 38-35 lead after the third quarter, the Eagles pulled away at the end by applying defensive pressure to Santa Teresa (3-6).

“I think we didn’t take care of the ball at times and weren’t patient enough on the offensive end,” said coach Patrick Mondragon of BHS’ first half against Santa Teresa. “The kids were patient in the second half, we got some shots and our defensive intensity stepped up a bit.”

Senior Colton Lewis score a game-high 21 points but the Eagles got scoring for seven players for a very even outing. The Eagles won the game at the free throw line, making 28-of-48 freebies compared to the Warriors’ 17-of-35.

“Our pressure finally got to them. They got behind and they had to foul and that helped us quite a bit,” said Mondragon. “The kids played hard the whole time, for four quarters.”

Belen beings play today in the Poe Corn Tournament against co-host Roswell Goddard at Goddard High.

“It’s a tough tournament,” he said. “It’s a 4A only tournament, which is one of the reasons I like it. We get to see some teams we don’t usually see and if we take care of business, it sure can help us come playoff time when the seedings come out.”