VHS improves to 11-1; Belen tops Hilltoppers

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

Both the Valencia and Belen high school girls basketball team started the new year with wins at home over the weekend.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: KARINA DOW (2) of Valencia defends a St. Michael’s ball handler during the Jaguars’ 52-34 win over the Lady Horsemen, Friday night at Valencia High School.

The Jaguars, who moved to 11-1 on the season, remained ranked No. 3 in Class 4A according to the MaxPreps rankings released Monday at www.maxpreps.com. VHS hovered just outside the top 10 of the overall state rankings at No. 11 and finished the week as one of just five one-loss teams in the state.

Los Lunas moved up to No. 4 on the strength of their second-place showing at the Alamogordo VFW Invitational the weekend before last, while Belen moved up to No. 10.

With just two weeks remaining until District 6-4A play begins, all six league teams are ranked in the top 11 teams of 4A.

Jaguars jam Lady Horsemen

Valencia didn’t miss a beat Friday, returning home from their championship run at the Alamogordo VFW Invitational the weekend before, pressuring their way to a win over Santa Fe St. Michael’s 52-34 at Valencia High School.

“It was a good win for us; that’s a good team,” said assistant coach Manuel Vigil. “We really challenged our posts to do a better job on (post Alexandra Groenewold) because she really kept them in the game. Brenda (Baeza), Miranda (Chavez) and Raeanne (Hererra) all stepped up, got more rebounds and responded to the challenge really well.”

The Jaguars’ pressure defense kept the Lady Horsemen off balance all night and gave VHS the spark needed to jump ahead of St. Mike’s in the first quarter.

Up 14-8 after one period, the Jags lost some momentum in the second quarter, but helped by a 4-for-4 performance from the free throw line, Valencia took a 24-15 lead going into halftime.

St. Mike’s cut the lead to five points late in the third quarter, but the Jags’ full-court press forced the Lady Horsemen out of their offensive rhythm, keying a 19-5 VHS run over the next seven minutes that secured the win.

“Whenever we play good defense, it gets us going,” said senior guard Karina Dow, who scored 10 of her game high 16 points in the fourth quarter. “When our defense is going, we get a lot of confidence.”

Freshman point guard Lorien Aragon added 10 points, while Chavez posted seven points in the win.

The Jaguars traveled to Bernalillo for their only game of the week on Tuesday. Look for a re-cap of that game in next Thursday’s News-Bulletin. Valencia follows that game with a pair of match-ups at home against Santa Fe Indian School on Monday and Atrisco Heritage on Tuesday.

Belen ‘D’ is key in win

The Eagles got the Hilltoppers on the run in the decisive fourth quarter, allowing just one field goal in the quarter and taking advantage of Los Alamos’ poor free throw shooting throughout the game to take a 47-35 win at home Saturday night.

While the ‘Toppers struggled to a 6-of-14 performance from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, Belen scored 12 of its 15 final period points on fast break opportunities.

Los Alamos cut the lead to 34-31 with just more than five minutes but BHS put together a 12-3 run to secure the win.

“We just talked about playing our game because we got away from what we do,” said senior Mariah Forde. “We got a little sloppy but we talked about getting back to playing calm.”

Forde scored a game-high 15 points to pace Belen, while Kaylyn Gomez scored 11 points and Kristian Sainz and Alexis Begay each added 10 points in the win.

Belen took a 28-18 halftime lead as Los Alamos hit just 5-of-15 free throws in the first half. The Eagles’ Gomez scored all 11 of her points in the second quarter, including a key 3-pointer.

But the Eagles scored just four points in the third quarter, while Forde, Arianna Valdez and post Monica Garley-Moore progressively got into foul trouble.

But only Valdez fouled out as Belen allowed Los Alamos to drive the basket and miss their shots in the often chaotic fourth quarter.

Belen improved to 6-2 with the win and plays at Kirtland Central’s Lady Bronco Invitational Thursday through Saturday. The Eagles start off with Ignacio, Colo., Thursday at 3 p.m. The Eagles then have a nine-day break before they begin league play on Tuesday, Jan. 21, hosting arch rivals Los Lunas.

The Tigers were idle last weekend and are also idle this week. LLHS plays at the Hope Christian Invitational Thursday, Jan. 16, through Saturday, Jan. 18, opening with West Las Vegas at 9 a.m. on Jan. 16.