Strong to the finish

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The first two quarters of the girls basketball game between Los Lunas and Valencia were exactly like the first two games the teams played this season. But that’s where the similarities ended.

The top-ranked Tigers out-scored the No. 4 Jaguars 22-3 in the decisive third quarter on their way to a 55-38 victory Friday at Valencia High School.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA DEFENDERS Miranda Chavez (30), Brenda Baeza (23) and Savannah Stump, far right, battle for the ball with Los Lunas’ Teige Zeller (33) during the Tigers’ 55-38 win at Valencia Friday night.

The game closed the regular season as well as closing the door on Valencia’s chances of claiming second place in District 6-4A and earning a first-round bye in the district tournament, which began Monday with the Jaguars defeating cross-county rivals Belen 53-51 in overtime.

On Friday, Valencia held a slim 21-20 halftime lead as the two teams’ offenses were slowed by tremendous defensive efforts on both ends. But the Tigers clamped down hard in the third quarter, allowing just one field goal from VHS.

“It was a lot of teamwork; we started man-to-man and added a lot of pressure,” said junior Kaitlyn Thompson. “We’ve been working a lot on our offense and we wanted to push the ball because we knew they’d come with the diamond-and-one (defense.)”

Los Lunas senior post Teige Zeller posted a double-double, scoring 14 points while pulling down 17 rebounds and blocking six shots. Alyssa Vigil scored eight of her 10 points in the decisive third quarter, while Jordan Holland added nine points for the Tigers.

Karina Dow scored 14 points to lead Valencia, while Savannah Stump added seven points.

“We just had a real lack of aggression and the girls couldn’t stop their dribble penetration,” said VHS coach Manuel Vigil. “We kept turning the ball over, they were running the same defense but for some reason we kept throwing it away.”

Before the game on Thursday, Los Lunas moved to No. 1 in the MaxPreps Class 4A rankings at www.maxpreps.com for the first time since November. The Tigers played Miyamura Wednesday night after News-Bulletin press time.

For a full report on that game and the rest of the District 6-4A Tournament as well as a State Tournament preview, pick up next Thursday’s print edition of the News-Bulletin.