Los Lunas boys avenge Alamo loss in VFW tourney

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

The Los Lunas boys basketball team got revenge for a loss and picked up a tournament title in the process while the Valencia squad suffered a trio of set backs at the Alamogordo VFW Invitational over the weekend at Alamogordo High School.

The northern Tigers beat host Alamogordo 52-47 in Saturday’s championship game, avenging a five-point loss at home on Dec. 20. The Jaguars finished the tournament with a loss with a 55-50 overtime loss to Sandia Prep in the tournament’s seventh place game Saturday morning.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS’ Jacob Holland (4), shown here against Alamogordo in Los Lunas on Saturday, Dec. 20, was named to the Alamogordo VFW Invitational all-tournament team along with fellow senior Chris Sanchez.

LLHS moved up to No. 2 in the MaxPreps Class 4A rankings on the strength of this weekend’s wins.

Just a week after facing Alamogordo at home, Los Lunas faced the southern Tigers on their home court, the Tiger Pit, and came away with a victory.

The team was led by seniors Chris Sanchez and Jacob Holland, who scored 22 points and 13 points, respectively. Sanchez shot 10-for-10 from the free throw line as the Tigers went 13-of-14 from the charity stripe. Sanchez and Holland combined to hit four of LLHS’ seven 3-pointers, another key to the game.

Los Lunas coach Travis Julian said a key to the game was limiting Alamogordo point guard JoJo Jones.

Jones scored 22 points in the two teams’ first meeting but was held to seven points on Saturday night.

LLHS was also successful keying on Alamo’s Tyler Kholer, making him put the ball on the floor instead of just being able to catch and shoot as in the first game.

Against Alamogordo Saturday, the Tigers took a 15-9 lead in the first quarter and increased the lead to 29-17 at halftime on the strength of their defensive play.

Alamo cut the Los Lunas lead to five late in the third quarter and then came as close as three points with a minute left in the game.

But the Tigers were able to hold them off and take the win.

“Our athleticism and speed gave them problems and they had a hard time with our transition game,” Julian said. “We hit some big threes in the second half and held our own on the boards.”

The key to pulling the game out was Los Lunas’ 3-point shooting, said Julian, as the Tigers went 6-of-8 from behind the arc while Alamogordo concentrated on stopping Sanchez and Holland.

For their efforts in the three-game tournament, Sanchez and Holland were named to the Invitational’s all-tournament team.

Los Lunas (6-2) started the tournament with a big 63-60 win over Class 5A Albuquerque Eldorado on Friday night. The Tigers got 24 points from Sanchez, 18 from Holland and another 11 points from guard Chad Murphy in the win.

The Tigers followed that signature win with a 56-50 win over Carlsbad. Sanchez led the Tigers with 22 points with Holland adding 19.

Los Lunas plays next at No. 5 Cleveland tonight in Rio Rancho before travelling to Sandia Prep Saturday.

The Jaguars were up 10 against Sandia Prep in the Alamogordo VFW Invitational Saturday but ended up losing to the Sundevils 55-51 in overtime to finish the tournament 0-3. But VHS coach Hamilton Doyle said he was “optimistic” looking forward despite the losses.

“Sometimes when you lose you actually take a step forward,” Doyle said. “I felt the kids got better from the experience.”

The Jags started with a 47-31 loss to Canutillo, Texas, Friday night before losing a tough 54-35 decision to El Paso Irvin on Saturday morning.

Doyle said he felt his team “learned more about themselves” in the three games, putting them in a situation where they can continue to improve before district play begins in January.

Doyle said his team really found itself defensively in the three games, switching from a more man-to-man posture to a zone defense that leaned to trapping when given the opportunity. That approach worked well against Sandia Prep, he said.

“Our biggest problem is that we need to get more physical competing for rebounds and second shots,” Doyle said. “But I saw improvement with each game.”

Valencia hosts Las Cruces Mayfield Saturday before travelling to Bernalillo on Tuesday.

The Eagles suffered set backs in their first two games of the Roswell Poe Corn Tournament last weekend, losing 58-49 to co-host Roswell in Thursday’s opener then falling 56-51 to Farmington, Friday night.

But Belen was able to regroup Saturday to defeat Los Alamos 57-46 in the seventh place game of the eight-team tournament. Colton Lewis scored 17 points while Michael Vialpando added 10 in the win over the Hilltoppers.

“That was probably the most complete game we’ve played all year,” said coach Patrick Mondragon. “We started strong and were sharing the ball well. At the end, we were really pleased with how the kids responded.”

Belen next hosts Santa Fe Friday night at Belen High School.

Valencia’s Jordan Baca was misidentified in a photo as Josh Doyle in the Dec. 26 edition of the News-Bulletin.