Drought of doom

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The Valencia girls basketball team experienced a drought Tuesday night against Belen — and the dry spell burned down the Jaguars chances of earning the No. 2 seed in next week’s District 6-4A tournament.

While No. 3 Valencia could not hit a shot from any distance for much of the game, the Eagles’ Kristian Sainz could not miss, scoring a season-high 34 points to lead Belen to a 51-39 win on Senior Night, Tuesday at Belen High School.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN DEFENDERS Kristin Sainz, left, Mariah Forde (33) and Amanda Menchaca (21) surround Valencia’s Miranda Chavez (30) during the Eagles’ 51-39 upset win Tuesday at Belen High School.

Sainz hit five 3-pointers on the night, the two most important book-ending a decisive 19-5 run that began at the 1:34 mark of the third quarter and didn’t end until 2:16 left in the game.

“I wanted to make this a special night for our team, I’m a senior and I wanted to lead my team with spark on our last home game (this season),” Sainz said. “They would switch and leave me wide open on the 3-point line and I just hit my shots.”

Valencia coach Manuel Vigil said his team came out flat from the get-go, but the seven-minute drought in the later part of the second half doomed his team’s chances.

“We were flat the whole game,” said VHS coach Manuel Vigil. “I told the girls coming out flat against any team in the district and we lose.

“We missed so many open lay-ups, wide-open lay-ups, posts getting open close to the basket,” he said.

“Kristian (Sainz) just lit it up, that was kind of the difference,” Vigil said. “She didn’t miss and we couldn’t make a lay-up.”

The Jaguars held a slim 9-8 lead coming out of the first quarter but Sainz keyed the Eagles rally, scoring 10 points in the second quarter and hitting two more treys to give Belen a 23-20 halftime lead.

Valencia came out pressing on defense and driving on offense and went on a 7-2 run to take a 27-25 lead with 4:02 left in the third quarter. But the Jags missed many chances to increase their lead even more and Belen made them pay before the quarter ended.

Eagles guard Alexis Begay slashed to the hoop for a lay-in to tie the game at 27-27 a minute later and a minute later Sainz hit her three to begin Belen’s final scoring burst.

“The girls did a tremendous job,” said BHS coach Dereck Atencio. “They came out with fire and energy, they came out with enthusiasm. On the defensive end they were really solid. That’s the kind of team they’re capable of being.”

Karina Dow led Valencia with nine points and Brenda Baeza added eight points in the loss. Kaylin Gomez added eight points for Belen while Mariah Forde scored seven.

The loss, coupled with a 64-52 win by Gallup Tuesday night against Grants, dropped Valencia to third place.

The Jags entered the week ranked No. 4 in Class 4A by MaxPreps (www.maxpreps.com) and tied for second place in the league with both teams at 5-3. The Jaguars (5-4 and 20-5), finish the season hosting Los Lunas.

Valencia are solidly in third place, even if they lose on Friday night because fourth place Miyamura lost to Los Lunas 61-41 Tuesday night, falling to 4-5, 14-10 on the season.

Belen (12-11, 2-7), which scored only its second district win of the season and their first win over a top-5 team in several years, according to Atencio, closes the season at Grants Friday night.

The Eagles are in fifth place while the Lady Pirates are currently in sixth place. Grants needs to win to force a tie for fifth place.

The district tournament begins with quarterfinal play Monday night at Valencia, with either Belen or Grants, depending on which team finishes in sixth place.

Grants would host the other team. The winners of Monday night’s games would advance to play No. 1 Los Lunas or No. 2 Gallup in Wednesday night’s semifinals.

The district championship is scheduled for Saturday night at the gym of the highest remaining seed. Tip off for all three games is 7 p.m.

The Tigers out-scored second-place Gallup 19-7 in the first quarter and never looked back, beating the visiting Bengals 83-59 at Los Lunas High Saturday night.

Los Lunas (21-4, 9-0) earned their 20th win on the season by getting scoring from all eight full-time varsity players. Senior Teige Zeller led all scorers with 24 points, while three others added double-digits themselves — Sanae Gaerlan added 16 points, Elise Tapia scored 14 and Jordan Holland added 11 for the Tigers.

“It’s all starting to come together,” Zeller said. “It was a big deal when we went to play in the Gallup gym, being a senior and playing in that atmosphere. Then coming here, it goes through to playing at home. It was really special.

“That was something we said before the game, ‘Don’t let the (Gallup) fans in the game by letting them run, because they (Gallup) like to run,’ she said. “And we did that.”

Los Lunas wrapped up the No. 1 seed and a District 6-4A title Saturday night, as well as a berth in the Class 4A State Tournament, which begins with Round-of-16 games at campus sites on Friday, March 7.

Any county team that is seeded in the top eight of the 16-team state tournament field will host a game that night.