Tigers Take Control

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The showdown between league leaders Los Lunas and Gallup on Tuesday, Jan. 28 was billed as a showdown.

Kenn Rodriguez- News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS’ JACOB HOLLAND, far right, shoots over a trio of Gallup defenders during the Tigers’ 85-67 victory over the Bengals at Los Lunas High School on Tuesday, Jan. 28. Holland scored a season-high 37 points in the win. The senior wing also scored a game-high 21 points against Miyamura last Thursday night in Gallup.

But the showdown turned out to be a showcase for the Tigers boys basketball team, as LLHS took sole possession of first place in District 6-4A with a domineering 85-67 win over the Bengals at Los Lunas High School.

Senior Jacob Holland scored 20 of his season-high 37 points in the first half and fellow seniors Chris Sanchez and Randy Moore added 17 and 11 points, respectively, in the win.

Los Lunas, which is steady at No. 2 in the MaxPreps Class 4A rankings, added a 40-29 win over Miyamura in Gallup Saturday to close the week 14-5 overall, and 4-0 in district. Gallup (10-9, 3-1) bounced back from Tuesday’s loss with a 74-66 win over Grants to stay in second place.

On Tuesday, The Tigers and Bengals came out of the gates at a breakneck pace in the first quarter, running and gunning for the first eight minutes. Los Lunas emerged from the first stanza with a 23-21 lead that had the large crowd energized.

But the Tigers defense clamped down defensively in the second quarter

“We had to go into a zone, we weren’t doing a very good job guarding them in (man-to-man) so we switched, went on a little run there at the end for the quarter and got a lead,” said LLHS coach Travis Julian. “We were just trading baskets (in the first quarter). So to be able to slow them down and get the cushion at halftime allowed us to come out and play our game in the second half,” he said.

Gallup rebounded a bit in the second half, but at that point the damage was done and the Bengals were unable to mount a consistent comeback in the second half.

“We tried to lock up a little bit more on Chris and Jacob to begin the half and tried to make the other guys shoot more, but when they shoot and you don’t get rebounds it hurts,” said Gallup coach Dominic Romero. “I think that was the biggest difference. They rebounded a little bit better than we did and their role players hit some big threes.”

Holland, who followed up his hig-scoring game against GHS with 21 points against Miyamura on Friday, had high praise for his team following the Gallup win.

“I have to give props to my teammates, Chris Sanchez and Chad Murphy,” said Holland. “We had 21 assists out there (tonight). Any time you have a night like that, you’ll have open looks and you’re going to be hard to stop. We just share the ball and finish. When we do that, it’s hard to stop.”

The Eagles bounced back from their 0-2 district start, claiming a pair of home wins over Miyamura and cross-county rivals Valencia to move to 8-10, 2-2 in district.

Like Belen, Valencia (8-12, 1-3) was coming off a win Tuesday night, a 67-63 triumph that saw the Jaguars come back from a 10-point third quarter deficit to top the visiting Pirates and grant Valencia it’s first league win this season.

The Eagles used a big defensive effort to top Miyamura 51-44 Tuesday night at home and that same defensive intensity would be the key to their win Friday night over Valencia, said coach Patrick Mondragon.

“The kids came out playing well, on fire,” he said. “It was a slow start for both teams. But we played a pretty complete game. We had a let down in the third quarter but they’re a good team. We expected them to hit some shots. But I’m proud of how the kids finished the game.”

The Eagles jumped out to a 14-8 first quarter lead behind the scoring of Thomas Cordova, who scored 10 of his 16 points in the quarter.

BHS would go on to a 29-23 halftime lead. But spurred on by Josh Doyls’ trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter, VHS tied the game 41-41 in the fourth quarter.

But Belen countered in the fourth quarter as Colton Lewis scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the final stanza and the Eagles withstood a barrage of Valencia free throws to win.

The Jags went 11-of-15 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, led by Josh Baca’s 5-of-6 performance from the line, but hit only two field goals.

“It’s just basketball,” said VHS coach Hamilton Doyle of the loss. “Sometimes you get on a rolland you’re able to maintain it. Sometimes you can’t I don’t think the guys played badly.

“We had opprtonuities laste in the game, but we didn’t come through,” he said.

Baca would finish with a game-high 20 points for Valencia. Fellow post Garrett Gibson added 14 while Josh Doyle finished with 12 points in the loss.

Belen’s Antonio Chavez also scored 11 in the win with a pair of treys and shooting 5-of-6 from the line.

Valencia faces league leading Los Lunas at home tonight, then travels to Gallup to take on Gallup High Saturday. Belen plays at Grants tonight before returning to host archrivals Los Lunas Saturday.