Boys prep basketball: Jags jam Belen, mauled by Tigers in district tourney
The boys District 6-4A Tournament started Tuesday, Feb. 25, with first round action featuring a battle between fourth-seed Belen and fifth-seed Valencia.
The action continued Thursday with a semifinal game that had top-seed Los Lunas hosting a battle with their cross-town foes, the Jaguars.
At Los Lunas High School Thursday, the Tigers’ speed was too much as they dominated on both ends of the court to advance to a second consecutive district championship game Saturday night.
“We’ve been working hard and working on our defense non-stop,” said senior Chris Sanchez. “When our defense comes together we run and we get points.”
LLHS coach Travis Julian said the game against Valencia Thursday “was one of our better defensive games.”
“This might have been one of the best game we played all year because we sustained for all four quarters,” he said.
Early on, the two teams traded baskets to start the game before Los Lunas (21-5) mounted a 12-3 run sparked by a pair of Jordan Holland 3-pointers.
Another 9-3 run by the Tigers in the second quarter set them on the path to a 37-26 halftime lead as the Jaguars finished the second quarter with just four field goals.
Valencia managed to keep the Los Lunas lead from mounting in the third quarter but the Tigers again exploded in the fourth quarter, this time igniting a 19-5 run to take a 71-43 lead before sitting their starters for the final four minutes of the game.
“They’re a quick team so going up and down the floor, they’re going to beat most teams,” said VHS junior Quentin Wanstall. “They are just deadly on the (fast break) and we just failed to slow that down.”
Holland scored 11 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 22 points for LLHS. Fellow senior Chris Sanchez added 19 points for the Tigers. The team got scoring from 12 of 14 players that night.
Valencia junior Garrett Gibson scored eight of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter and shot 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Josh Baca added 14 points.
The Jags made seven 3-pointers in the game — half of their tally of 14 field goals made.
VHS coach Hamilton Doyle said he felt his team had done enough to earn an at-large state tournament berth.
“There’s a good chance we may be in,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see where we’re at and go from there. My honest opinion is we’re either a fourteenth or fifteenth-seed.”
At Belen High School Tuesday Feb. 25, the 5th seeded Jaguars second half explosion was good to trigger a minor upset of the fourth-seeded Eagles.
“At this point in the season you let loose of whatever you have in your arsenal and I thought tonight we were on,” said VHS coach Hamilton Doyle. “I’m proud of the way we played tonight.”
The Eagles started solidly enough, taking a 12-8 lead after allowing Valencia just three field goals in the first quarter.
But the Jags’ Garrett Gibson scored 11 of his 19 points in the second quarter to lead Valencia to a 26-23 halftime lead.
“We got a little nervous and lost our composure (in the second quarter)” said BHS coach Patrick Mondragon. “Things started going bad and we never recovered. You have to give them a lot of credit.”
Behind a solid defensive effort with their zone defense and efficiency on offense, VHS continued to extend the lead in the third quarter, pushing their advantage to 46-38 going into the fourth quarter.
The Jags then clinched the playoff win with a 26-point fourth quarter performance, spearheaded by junior Quentin Wanstall, who scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, going 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
“Coach just told us this may be the last half the seniors ever play and the last half we play as a team,” Gibson said. “I personally took it to heart and came out firing. All five of us did and it showed.”
Senior Colton Lewis scored a team high 19 points to lead Belen while Emilio Ulibarri added 12 and Brandon Ammons kicked in nine points, all in the fourth quarter.
Valencia’s Josh Baca added 15 points in the win.