Pressing on to overtime

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The Valencia girls basketball team paid a lot of attention to Los Lunas’ Teige Zeller Tuesday night.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA’S KARINA DOW, right, tries to shoot over Los Lunas defenders Teige Zeller, left, and Jordan Holland, center, during the Jaguars-Tigers District 6-4A match-up Tuesday at Los Lunas High School.

That singular focus allowed Zeller’s teammate, junior Elise Tapia, to get free late in the game and help Los Lunas to a thrilling 43-42 overtime victory at Los Lunas High School.

Tapia scored her team’s final seven points of the game, hitting a wide-open 3-pointer with 42 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime, and sending in a pair of put backs in the extra period while LLHS patiently held the ball on offense.

Zeller did her part, tallying two of her seven blocks in the final 18 seconds of regulation and also drawing the defense to her late, allowing Tapia the open looks to score.

“We talked about when Teige gets crowded, that when she brings the bigs out, we cut,” Tapia said of Valencia’s defense collapsing on Zeller. “We knew it would be there.”

Leading most of the way, Valencia trailed 43-39 with 1:27 left in overtime. A jumper by guard Lorien Aragon closed the gap to 43-41 with 1:03 left. The Jags had two chances to tie or take the lead after that, but went 1-of-3 on free throws in the final seconds.

Valencia’s defense kept the Tigers from adding to the lead on their final shot, giving the Jags one last chance with 6 seconds left to play.

But Los Lunas’s pressure defense, which got the Tigers back in the game in the third quarter, kept the Jaguars from even launching a shot in the final seconds, preserving the victory.

The two teams went to overtime in the title game of the Alamogordo VFW Tournament in December, with Valencia prevailing 42-36.

“We just talked about keeping (their guards) on their weak hand and pressuring them,” said captain Dominique Pohl. “We’d seen them in Alamogordo and knew it would be a tough game. But we were able to keep our composure.”

It was a stunning finish for Valencia (17-4, 2-3 District 6-4A), which took a 12-9 lead in the first quarter by front-guarding Zeller and generally harassing the Tigers on defense.

Los Lunas (15-4, 5-0) cut the lead to 20-17 by halftime but the Jags held off a charge in the third to take a 31-26 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We just lost steam (in the fourth quarter,)” Karina Dow said after the loss. “We could break (their press), we just couldn’t score. We just weren’t looking to attack at the beginning of the quarter.

“We had Maya (Dow), and she was able to attack Teige pretty well. But she could only play for three quarters because she’d played in the junior varsity game. Losing her hurt us because she was going off.”

Freshman Maya Dow scored a game-high 14 points playing a big part in the aggressive Valencia offense, which moved the ball quickly and generally avoided giving Zeller much of a chance to swat balls early on. Karina Dow added 13 points for VHS.

Tapia and Zeller each scored 12 points to lead Los Lunas, while Alyssa Vigil added eight points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the game.

Valencia vanquishes Belen

The Jaguars came into the game seemingly reinvigorated after a 43-33 win over the Eagles Thursday. Still stinging from a 39-37 set back at Grants last Tuesday, Valencia trailed 6-5 early before going on an 8-0 run to take a 13-5 lead early in the second quarter. Leading 26-16 at halftime, the Jags kept their lead steady through the third quarter, then opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run that seemed to take the starch out of the Eagles.

BHS’ Mariah Forde scored a game-high 19 points in the loss, while VHS was paced by Karina Dow’s 18 points and Miranda Chavez, who scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half.

“The last four games our first quarter has been terrible, so our focus tonight was starting better,” said coach Manuel Vigil. “I was happy overall with the game. The girls were able to get their aggressiveness back.”

Valencia hosts Gallup Friday night while Belen (11-6, 1-4) travels to play at Los Lunas. The Tigers also travel to play Kirtland Central in a non-district game Tuesday night.