If any team in District 6-4A thought that Los Lunas’ four loses this season were an indication that the Tigers may no longer be the favorite for the league title in 2014, they may want to re-think that after Tuesday night.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS’ ALLYSA VIGIL, far right, and Sanae Gaerlan (30) battle Belen’s Monica Garley-Moore, center left, and Amanda Menchaca, center right, for a loose ball during the Eagles-Tigers game at Belen High School Tuesday night.

Starting out with a stifling defensive effort and a patient offensive plan that wore down host Belen’s zone defense, the Tigers jumped out to a 14-4 first quarter lead on their way to a 58-35 victory Tuesday night at the Belen High School gym.

“That’s one of the things that’s haunted us all year, is not starting well,” said Eagle coach Dereck Atencio. “With teams like Los Lunas … if you have a slow start, they’re going to shut you out of it pretty quick and it’s near impossible to get back.

“I don’t think we ever got into an offensive rhythm and I thought we were not aggressive early on.”

Los Lunas improved to 9-4 and 1-0 in district, while Belen fell to 9-5, 1-0.

Senior post Teige Zeller scored a game-high 16 points for the Tigers despite being double and triple-teamed for much of the game. Cera Chavez, Jordan Holland and Elise Tapia each added nine points as LLHS’s offense worked efficiently all night to find open shooters.

“(Coach) really wanted us to work on spreading out and ball movement. So we worked on that,” said Tapia. “Coach told us we need to take our time on shots and not rush. We were getting good looks, everyone was getting good looks (tonight), and that came from taking our time.”

Up 34-21 at halftime, Los Lunas held Belen to one field goal in the third quarter, a 3-pointer by Ariana Valdez, as the Tigers went on a 14-3 run. LLHS’ defensive effort in the second half was so air-tight that the Tigers weren’t called for a foul until the four-minute mark of the final quarter.

“It took us a while to find the dynamics of a team, but it’s coming and we were able to put it together (tonight),” said Los Lunas coach Marty Zeller. “The only thing that’s stopped us this season is our own offense. But I’m confident now that we will be a top-three team.”

Mariah Forde led Belen with 13 points and Monica Garley-Moore added five points in the loss.

Belen does not play again until Tuesday when they play at Moriarty in a rescheduled game from earlier in the season. Los Lunas hosts Grants Friday night then travels to play Piedra Vista in Farmington Saturday before returning to play a rescheduled game against Santa Fe Indian School on Monday. The Tigers next district game is next Thursday, Jan. 30, at Gallup High.

Bengals snaps Jags streak

Valencia entered Gallup High with a 14-game winning streak and the No. 3 ranking in Class 4A but left with a loss due to poor play to begin and end the game with the Bengals, who scored a 53-47 win Tuesday night.

Gallup (12-4, 1-0) sprinted out to an 11-4 lead in the first quarter and led 25-20 at halftime. Valencia (15-2, 0-1) rallied through the second half and took a 40-38 lead with just under four minutes left in the game.

But the Jags allowed too many second-chance points down the stretch and the Bengals we able to pull away in the end, said coach Manuel Vigil.

“That’s one of worst quarters we’ve had all season,” said Vigil of his team’s first quarter effort. “We had poor execution — weren’t even getting shot attempts really. But we played well from then on, until the last three minutes.

“We played good defense the entire game,” he said. “We just ran out of steam at the end mentally. They scored most of their points down the stretch on put-backs. Rebounds really cost us the game.”

VHS’ Karina Dow led all scorers with 19 points. Raeanne Hererra and Brenda Baeza each added eight points in the loss. Valencia hosts Gallup Miyamura Friday night.

Los Lunas took third place in the Hope Invitational Tournament over the weekend, beating Taos 58-16 in Saturday’s first place game after losing to undefeated Shiprock in the semifinals.

Read last week’s girls basketball round-up, including games involving Belen and Valencia at www.news-bulletin.com