Eagles, Tigers set to battle as district begins

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The Los Lunas and Belen boys basketball teams finished the non-district portion of their schedules with losses last weekend, though the setback didn’t harm the Tigers standing in the MaxPreps Class 4A rankings.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA GUARD D.J. Heybourne (3) is fouled while driving to the basket during the Jaguars’ 57-47 win over Mayfield Saturday afternoon.

LLHS (10-5) remains at No. 2 entering their match-up with arch rival Belen (6-8) tonight in Los Lunas. The Eagles fell to No. 16, just a spot above cross-county rivals Valencia (7-9).

The Jaguars, who were idle last week, open district tonight at home against No. 8 Gallup (7-8).

LLHS run past Knights, bucked by Broncos

The Tigers three-game wining streak was snapped on the road by Kirtland Central Saturday night as the Broncos outlasted LLHS to pin a 80-72 overtime loss on the Tigers.

Los Lunas got just over half of their scoring from senior guard Chris Sanchez, who finished with a game-high 37 points.

But it was foul trouble for Sanchez and fellow senior and scoring threat Jacob Holland that got the Tigers in trouble to begin with as the Broncos took a 26-16 halftime lead while Sanchez and Holland sat for much of the second quarter with two fouls each.

“In the first half we just didn’t shoot too well and we took too many 3s,” said coach Travis Julian. “Jacob picked up some fouls early in the half and that combined with a bad first quarter got us in trouble.”

The Tigers roared back in the second half, out-scoring Kirtland Central 27-18 in the fourth quarter alone. LLHS had a chance to win the game with four-tenths of a second left in the game with Sanchez at the free throw line, but the senior’s second free throw rimmed out and the two teams went on to overtime.

In the extra period, the Tigers raced out to score the first six points, but Sanchez, Holland and fellow senior Chad Murphy all fouled out and the Broncos were able to race away for the win.

“In the second half we were able to utilize some pressure defensively,” Julian said. “We sped them up and got some turnovers. But the foul trouble caught up to us in the end.”

Holland and Murphy added 14 and 12 points, respectively, on Saturday.

Los Lunas began the weekend with a 61-48 home win last Thursday over Del Norte that was driven by Sanchez’ game-high 31 points.

The senior was again forced to shoulder the load in the second quarter as Holland was sidelined with two fouls early in the second quarter.

After leading the Tigers to a 25-21 halftime lead, Sanchez exploded in the third quarter, scoring 15 points as the Tigers finished the third quarter on an 11-0 run that virtually buried the Knights. Holland and Murphy added nine and seven points respectively in the win.

“Coach told us we needed to work harder on our defense (in the second half) and that’s what we did,” Sanchez said. “We got some lock downs and steals and that’s when we’re dangerous. We all try to make it a team effort,” said Sanchez They get us the ball and we make plays.”

Mustangs, Spartans spoil week for Eagles

Playing back-to-back games proved to be extremely challenging for Belen, which went 0-2 to finish the slate of make up games, falling at West Mesa 65-59 on Tuesday, Jan. 14, then losing to Bernalillo 53-48 at home last Thursday night.

“We knew this stretch would be tough, especially since we were playing three times in the week against some really good teams,” said coach Patrick Mondragon. “It was challenging but we learned from each game and tried to get better moving forward.”

At West Mesa, the Mustangs’ shooting prowess got ‘Stangs out of a 13-10 first quarter deficit. The Eagles still led 31-29 at halftime but eventually West Mesa took the lead in the second half.

Despite that, Belen trailed by just four points with under a minute left in the game, but were unable to climb the last bit to earn the win.

“They had a couple of kids who made plays, made some shots late,” Mondragon said. “They’re a tough team. They made a few more plays than us towards the end.”

At home Thursday, against Bernalillo, the Eagles held a four-point lead late in the game but were unable to close the game, said Mondragon.

“We had the lead with two minutes left but we made a few mistakes, had a few turnovers and they took advantage,” he said. “We’re still a young team and our youth comes out at some bad times.

“Our defense was also lacking a bit,” said Mondragon. “We’re seeing improvement but we still need to keep working.”