No redemption for LLHS boys in title game
The Los Lunas boys made history Saturday, as the first Tiger team to step onto Bob King Court at The Pit to play for a state championship.
But Roswell made sure Los Lunas would not leave The Pit with that championship, beating the Tigers 56-41 in the title game of the Class 4A State Tournament Saturday afternoon.
In the end, the Coyotes’ shooting, along with their speed and athleticism, gave them a decided advantage over Los Lunas (25-6), especially in the second half of Saturday’s game, allowing Roswell to snap the Tigers’ 15-game winning streak.
“First off, I want to congratulate Roswell,” said LLHS coach Travis Julian, “The frustrating thing for us is, they didn’t get our best today. As a team, we just weren’t at our best. We fought. We just didn’t play well.”
Los Lunas defeated defending state champs St. Pius X 39-36 in a tense, defensive semifinal Thursday. In Wednesday’s quarterfinal, Los Lunas beat Albuquerque Academy 68-59. Web Exclusives on both games are available as at www.news-bulletin.com.
On Saturday, senior Jacob Holland posted a double-double, scoring a team-high 14 points and pulling in 10 rebounds. Fellow seniors Chris Sanchez and Chad Murphy added 10 and eight points, respectively, and senior Randy Moore pulled down a season-high 15 rebounds.
The Tigers won the rebound battle 44-30, but committed 17 turnovers to the Coyotes’ 10.
Los Lunas’ real bugeboo Saturday was shooting, as the team went just 26 percent, 14-of-53, from the field and 5-of-21 from beyond the arc. Sanchez, who is usually very reliable from 3-point range, finished just 1-of-7 as Roswell challenged nearly every shot the senior put up.
Roswell (29-1) also was able to check the Tigers’ vaunted fast break, either cutting LLHS players off from the basket or tapping the ball from their hands at key moments.
“We just couldn’t get our offense going,” Sanchez said.
“We couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm offensively,” Holland concurred. “Our shots weren’t going down, we just weren’t feeling it.”
Los Lunas took a 9-3 lead early on but the Coyotes surged back for a 10-9 advantage on their way to a 14-10 first quarter lead.
Roswell pushed the lead to 15-10 early in the second quarter, but Murphy hit a 3-pointer at the 6:37 mark to launch an 8-1 run and take back the lead 20-19 with 3:42 lead in the first half.
The Tigers led 22-21 at halftime and scored the first two points of the second half. But Roswell responded with a 10-0 run to take a 31-24 lead. Los Lunas shot just 2-of-10 in the third quarter and committed eight turnovers as the Coyotes began to take control of the game.
Roswell held the Tigers scoreless for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, going on a 9-0 run to take an insurmountable 47-30 lead with five minutes left in the game.
“I knew they couldn’t hold us down forever,” said Roswell coach Britt Cooper. “When you have all five starters averaging double figures, any of them can come up at a given moment.”
Los Lunas loses six seniors — Holland, Murphy and Sanchez as well as defensive stalwarts Jalen Chavez, Sasha Gallegos and Randy Moore.
“One of our assistants pointed out that they are arguably the most successful class that has ever been at that school,” Julian said. “I’m just very appreciative of these young men. They’ve raised the bar to a level that our younger kids are going to have to strive to (meet).”
Guards Wayne Byers, a junior, and Kayden Walker, a freshman, who were both trusted reserves this season, will likely step into leadership roles next season.
Muprhy and Holland said they felt the Tigers’ underclassmen would continue the tradition that has been started by the last two sqauds.
“(They’ve got to) just keep working and keep striving to get better,” said Murphy.
“They just need to stick to our core values and the rest will fall into place,” he said.