Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Tessa Jaramillo, of Los Lunas, drives for a layup during Friday’s victory over Albuquerque High. The Tigers are one of the state’s most improved teams.

District basketball tournaments continue around New Mexico this week, with teams making a final push in hopes of qualifying for the state playoffs.  

District tournament champions get an automatic berth in the state tournament. On Sunday, the New Mexico Activities Association will announce the state tournament brackets.  


Los Lunas Tigers 

“Restore the Roar” was the battle cry for the Los Lunas girls’ basketball team following last season’s 6-22 record.  

Most will admit — at the very least— the Tigers’ growl is back.   

Los Lunas (19-9, 9-1) tied for the district championship with Albuquerque High and, on Monday, lost a playoff game against the Bulldogs, 41-37, to determine the top seed in the district.   

Scarlett Marez led the Tigers with 11 points. LLHS defeated Rio Grande Thursday 51-30 and will now play Saturday at 4 p.m. at AHS for the District 5-5A title.  It will be the third meeting between the two teams in eight days.

Even hard to please first-year coach Manny Vigil agrees the roar is returning.  

“I feel a lot of our girls have come a long way,” Vigil said. “Once I met the kids and saw what they could do, I knew that we could give people some problems.”  

It’s the defense that is causing opponents headaches, with Los Lunas holding 22 of their 27 opponents to 41 points or fewer.  

“Our defense is just incredible,” said Grace Baca, sophomore guard. The defense starts the offense. “We have a lot of endurance. We work together as team to move the ball and put it in the basket.”  

Tessa Jaramillo, junior guard, also takes pride in the defense. 

“That’s what’s keeping us there,” Jaramillo said. “Our offense is just like an add-on.”  

The Tigers have overcome challenges, including a schedule that had just one home game in January and a string of injuries.  

Starting point guard Vada Gallino and starting post Allisa Campos are among the injured, both out for the season.  

“Everybody’s learning new spots, and they’re doing well, adjusting on the fly,” said Vigil.  

The turnaround, with 12 more victories than last season, has to impress the doubters.  

Former coach David Medina told the News-Bulletin following his resignation after one year,  “The talent level (at LLHS) is not what it used to be.”  

Were the players discouraged after last season? 

“No, not at all,” said Baca. “I knew this group coming up, with a new coach, we were going to be ready.”  

Jaramillo says she’s a little surprised by the success, however, “Our mindset is way different now,” Jaramillo said. “We’ve been working way harder.”  

Vigil says he feels blessed with the programs’ talent, now and in the future.  

“We have seven eighth-graders playing at the high school this year,” Vigil said. “We’ve got a lot of ninth-graders. We’ve got a lot of young kids who can actually take care of business.”  

The success of the Los Lunas boys’ basketball team should come as no surprise, with All-State junior guard Jalin Holland grabbing the attention of opposing defenses and college recruiters alike.  

The district champion Tigers (18-9, 8-2), hosted Santa Fe Capital Wednesday, defeating the Jaguars 75-57 in a District 5-5A semifinal game.  Santa Fe High will visit LLHS Friday at 7 p.m.  for the district tournament title. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, according to the bracket provided.  

“I feel like the kids have matured and are playing better,” said coach Travis Julian, emphasizing the improvement of the offense. “Earlier in the year, it was like Jalin and then it was hit or miss at times. It seems like we found some consistency as a unit.”  

Julian said the 10th-ranked Tigers could still use improvement in several areas.  

“We need to be a better rebounding team,” he said. “That’s kind of been an Achilles heel for us all year.”   

Julian also notes his players can be “three happy” at times, settling for outside shots.  

“We’ve got good shooters, but we need to understand that there’s got to be a balance. I think we’re trying to find that balance.”  


Valencia Jaguars  

Valencia’s Jaiden Montgomery splits between two Grants defenders Monday during the Jaguars 53-29 district tournament victory.

Despite foul trouble, No. 2 seeded Valencia (17-10, 5-3) Monday opened the district 5-4A girls’ tournament with a comfortable 53-29 home victory against Grants.   

Wednesday, after press time, the Jaguars were scheduled to face Highland, which upset Belen in the first round. VHS split with the Hornets during the regular season, losing at Highland 46-45 and winning at home 54-36.   

VHS wrapped up the regular season last week with a 53-32 victory against Belen.  

Jayden Montoya, junior guard, continues to be one of the leading scorers in the state, averaging more than 21 points per game.  

The Valencia boys (11-16, 0-8) have struggled since standout guard Damian Estrada suffered a knee injury last month that ended his season.   

The No. 5 seeded Jags lost Tuesday their district 5-4A tournament game at St. Pius 57-48.   VHS cut a 16 point deficit to four points when Jorge Zuniga hit a trey, but St. Pius held on.

VHS ended the regular season last week with a 60-45 setback to Belen.  

Belen’s Analeigha Wright, No. 4, dribbles quickly during Monday’s 53-47 district tourney loss to Highland.

Belen Eagles 

After defeating Highland twice during the regular season, the No. 3 seeded Belen girls were unable to hold off the Hornets on Monday at home. The Eagles (11-16, 3-5) fell to Highland 53-47.   

BHS showed improvement during district play from last season, when the Eagles went 0-8. Analeigha Wright is the team’s lone senior.   

Sisters Jaelynn Bob and Danilynn Bob led Belen in scoring, each averaging about nine points per contest.  

The fourth-seeded Belen boys (9-18, 2-6) traveled Tuesday to Grants, losing 72-55.   

Despite losing, leading scorer Jordi Rojo, the Eagles should have another excellent back court next season, with the return of Damian Avila and Jasode Harris.   

BHS improved from last season, when the Eagles won just four games. 

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.