Jaguars move to 7-1; Los Lunas, Belen victorious on road

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The Valencia girls basketball team moved their overall record to 7-1 with a pair of wins over Moriarty and Albuquerque Del Norte last week, while district foes Los Lunas and Belen both won games on the road.

The Jaguars are ranked third in the initial Class 4A Max Preps rankings at www.maxpreps.com. All three Valencia County teams are in the top 10 with defending state champions Los Lunas (4-2) at No. 5 and Belen (5-2) at No. 10.

Kenn Rodriguez- News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA’S Kristina Contratto, left, is fouled while driving to the basket during the Jaguars’ 64-16 win over Moriarty at Valencia HIgh School on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

The Jaguars traveled to Albuquerque to beat Del Norte at home 42-33 Friday night, following up an absolute crushing of Moriarty, beating the Pintos 64-16 on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

Against the Knights, the Jags raced out to a 16-7 first quarter lead and took the momentum into halftime with a 25-13 cushion. But Del Norte (3-4) rallied in the third quarter, out-scoring VHS 14-5 to cut the deficit to 30-27 going into the fourth quarter. But Valencia edged them out late to take the game.

Kristina Contratto scored a game-high 12 points, hitting four 3-pointers in the win. Miranda Chavez added 10 points in her second game back from an injury.

Against Moriarty, senior Brenda Baeza scored 13 of her game-high 21 points in the first half, beating the Pintos all by herself. The Jags swarming defense held Moriarty to an incredible four points in the first half on just two field goals. Leading 28-4 at halftime, Valencia poured it on during the third quarter with 23 points to cruise to the win.

Karina Dow added 16 points for VHS and Chavez scored seven points in her return.

“We’ve used multiple presses to get us going in our flow and we’ve executed well,” said assistant coach Manuel Vigil of both games last week. “And our rebounding has continued to improve, so we’re getting more shots.”

Vigil had praise across the board for his team, but was especially pleased with the play of freshman point guard Lorien Aragon.

“She’s been really key for us,” he said. “She keeps us settled out there and gets the ball where it needs to go.”

The Jaguars next play El Paso Chapin at the Alamogordo VFW Invitational Friday. The Huskies stand 4-12 on the season. With no teams with winning records on their side of the bracket, Valencia appears to have a clear shot at Saturday’s championship game against either cross-county rivals Los Lunas or Class 5A power Eldorado.

Los Lunas senior Teige Zeller scored a game-high 24 points and the Tigers finished with three players in double figures offensively in a dominating win over the Mustangs.

Zeller added a little bit in all facets of the game, grabbing seven rebounds, five steals and dealing out four assists as Los Lunas (4-2) held winless West Mesa (0-6) to single digit scoring in each quarter for an easy win.

After a shaky first quarter, the Tigers exploded in the second quarter with a 22-4 burst that gave them a 38-13 halftime lead. The Mustangs scored just six points the rest of the way as the Los Lunas defense took over.

Junior Elise Tapia added 14 points and five rebounds, while sophomore Jordan Holland scored 11 points in the win.

“It was just one of those games you like to have before Christmas and heading into the Alamogordo Tournament,” said Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller.

The Tigers (4-2) next play at the Alamogordo VFW Invitational at Alamogordo High School Friday and Saturday.

Los Lunas opens at with future district opponent Santa Teresa (3-6) with a potential semifinal match-up looming against perennial Class 5A power Albuquerque Eldorado (4-1).

Tied with host Artesia after two quarters, the Eagles out-scored the Lady Bulldogs in the final two quarters to take a 62-53 win at the Pit in Artesia Friday night.

Belen (5-2) was tied 32-32 with AHS but out-scored the ‘Dogs 30-21 in the second half to break a two-game losing streak.

Mariah Forde posted a double-double in her return to the court, scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. The junior shot 6-of-14 from the field, hitting three 3-pointers. Eagles’ senior Krisrian Sainz also scored 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the win.

Belen next plays Los Alamos at home on Saturday, Jan. 4, at Belen High then travels to Kirtland Central’s Lady Bronco Invite Jan. 9-11.