WEB EXCSUIVE: Tiger boys hoops charge past Academy to Final Four

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ALBUQUERQUE – At a certain point, fans watching the second-seeded Los Lunas in their back-and-forth battle with the seventh-seeded Albuquerque Academy Chargers Wednesday must have thought that who ever made the last big scoring run would win.

The team was the Tigers, who turned away the Chargers with a 12-3 run over the final three minutes of the game to claim a 69-59 win to advance in the Boys Class 4A State Basketball Tournament at The Pit.

Academy charged back from a 55-49 deficit early in the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run to cut Los Lunas’ lead to 57-56 with 3:19 left in the game.

But Tigers’ senior Chris Sanchez responded with a 3-pointer eight seconds later that ignited the final run the Los Lunas used to put the game away and advance to Thursday’s semifinal game, where they would face defending 4A champions St. Pius – the team that knocked them out of the 2013 tournament.

“The shot was there and I just took it,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez scored a game-high 27 points while fellow senior Jacob Holland posted a double-double, scoring 26 point and pulling down 13 rebounds while senior Chad Murphy added 10 points in the victory.

Academy senior post Chris Martin, the Chargers’ leading scorer, was largely neutralized for much of the game scoring only three points in the first half on his way to 12 points for the game.

“The first game we played them (this season), we didn’t have an answer for him in the second half, said LLHS coach Travis Julian. “These guys executed the game plan almost to perfection. It was a great job by these guys.”

Academy also saw its shooting go from a hot 52 percent in the first half to a frosty 38 percent (9-24) in the second half. Los Lunas also out-rebounded the Chargers 40-31, limiting the Chargers’ second chance point potential.

The two teams traded shots early on, but the Tigers closed the first quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 20-13 lead into the second quarter.

Academy turned the tables in the second quarter going on an 8-1 run to cut the Los Lunas lead to 29-28 with 1:37 left in the half. The Tigers out-scored the Chargers 4-1 in the final minute to take a 33-30 lead into halftime.

Academy opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run to take a 44-39 with 4:31 left in the quarter. LLHS then went on a 13-4 run of its own to take the lead back and lead 50-45 going into the fourth quarter.
“They were just making shots and came out faster than us,” Holland said. “(But) we just stuck with our ‘D’ the whole ball game.”

The Chargers would make one more run in the fourth quarter before Los Lunas launched it’s final run to win the game.

“They just played us really well (down the stretch,” said Academy coach Roy Morgan. “Their game play, which is sound, was to pack it in around Chris Martin and force us to find different ways to score. At the end we struggled a little bit and  we missed some shots. We had a hard time guarding them.”