Fourth quarter rally lifts Eagles over Jags

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The Belen and Valencia boys basketball teams both came into their game last Thursday at Valencia High needing a win.

A Jaguar win would pull VHS up into a tie with the Eagles for third place in the district. An Eagle win would turn Friday's game at home against Grants into a playoff for third place in the district and give BHS the three-seed going into the District 6-4A Tournament.

Valencia held the Eagles to just five points in the third quarter Tuesday and looked to be on their way to a win and a tie in the standings.

But a 27-point-fourth quarter, keyed by Belen's Thomas Cordova, earned the Eagles an exciting 61-58 come-from-behind win.

"Thomas hit that three to start the fourth quarter and that's what got us going," said BHS forward Brandon Ammons. "Before that, we talked and said we weren't out of the game."

Belen lost to Grants 78-69 Saturday night, finishing district play in fourth place while Valencia led league-leading Los Lunas early on before falling 68-54 Saturday night. In Tuesday night's district tournament contest between No. 4 BHS and No. 5 Valencia at Belen High School, the Jags exacted a measure of revenge, beating the Eagles 70-55 to advance to Thursday's semifinals against No. 1 Los Lunas.

You can read about both district tournament games in next Thursday's print edition of the News-Bulletin.

Last Tuesday night, the Eagles took a 19-17 first-quarter lead as both teams fought closely. But the Jags countered with a tough defensive effort in the second quarter to take a 31-27 lead into halftime.

"I just kept telling them to keep fighting," said BHS coach Patrick Mondragon. "We faced a lot of adversity today and I just kept telling them to keep their heads up."

VHS held Belen to just one field goal in the third and appeared to be on its way to victory with a 42-32 advantage going into the fourth quarter. But BHS made 11-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter and got critical 3-pointers from Brandon Ammons, Thomas Cordova and John Michael Hicks to fuel their come-back.

"We put them on the line and that's the silent assassin, that's how you can make a run on a team," said VHS coach Hamilton Doyle. "Plus the lack of box outs and fouls gave them an opportunity to come back. I'm not upset with our kids. I still think we're capable of beating them."

Valencia was paced by Josh Baca, who scored a game-high 19 points, and Jordan Baca, who went a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line and added 13 points.