Valencia Jaguars 

There is no doubt No. 8 Valencia made top seeded Kirtland Central sweat Tuesday during the quarterfinals of the girls 4A New Mexico State Basketball Championship in the Pit.  

Ultimately, poor shooting and too many unforced turnovers doomed the Jaguars, who fell to the Broncos 50-34.  

Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Valencia’s Jaiden Montgomery takes a jump shot Tuesday over Kirtland Central defenders during the Jaguars 4A quarterfinal state tournament loss in the Pit.

Valencia’s Jadyn Montoya opened the scoring by nailing a three-pointer, but VHS didn’t hit another trey until the fourth quarter, finishing 2-17. The Jags also struggled at the free throw line, making 10 of 20.  

Despite that, Valencia (19-12) was tied with Kirtland Central (27-3) at the end of the first quarter, 9-9.   

Jaiden Montgomery scored inside to start the second quarter, giving Valencia its last lead of the game.  That was the only field goal of the quarter for VHS, which trailed 20-12 at the half as the Broncos forced a turnover in the final seconds that led to a fastbreak bucket.  

Kirtland Central quickly extended the lead in the third quarter and when Zoey Banally dropped in a high-arching three pointer, Valencia was down 32-13.  

Game over? Far from it.  

Valencia scored 16 of the next 18 points, with Montoya, Francesca Otero, Montgomery and her sister, Eden, all contributing.  

“We all believed that we were going to win and that was a big part,” of the comeback, said Montoya. “We just never gave up.”  

Just seconds into the fourth quarter, Izabel Zamora drilled a three-pointer, her only basket of the game, pulling Valencia to within 34-29. 

“The wheels kind of came off us,” said Kirtland Central coach Devon Manning. “We were in survival mode to get to the fourth quarter.”  

A scrambling defense and relentless rebounding seemed to be wearing down the Broncos, who appeared gassed. Instead, Kirtland Central got its second wind, forcing turnovers and scoring inside.  

Valencia was outscored 16-5 the rest of the way, with Kirtland Central earning a 50-34 victory and a trip to the semifinals to face old rival Gallup for the fifth time this season.  

The Jaguars converted only 26 percent of their field goal attempts, with 21 turnovers, leading to many easy Broncs baskets. However, Valencia had a big 38-28 rebounding advantage, including a 16-8 edge on the offensive glass.  

“They only play one big at a time. We expected it to be a big bright spot for us,” said first year VHS coach Raymond Montoya said of the Broncos. 

Valencia coach Raymond Montoya gives instruction late during the Jaguars’ loss to Kirtland Central in the 4A state tournament.

Despite the loss, the Jaguars enjoyed the experience.  

“To get back on the Pit floor again, I think it was super cool,” said Otero. “We fought really hard.”   

Coach Montoya agreed.  

“The atmosphere, the experience of the whole day, the whole week — it’s been really fun,” the coach said. “Getting that experience against a team like that in the Pit, that’s huge for our future.”   

Broncos coach Manning didn’t think it was much fun.  

“Valencia won’t go away,” he said. “They made us pay for those mistakes. It was just a grind.”  

For the second straight game, Jaiden Montgomery led VHS in scoring with 14 points while Montoya added nine. Kirtland Central post-player Keira Beall-Gleason was tough to stop inside, finishing with 15 points on six of seven shooting.  

Valencia advanced to the quarterfinals Friday by overcoming a double-digit deficit, a power outage and an overtime to eliminate No. 9 Lovington.    

The Wildcats 27-15 lead was cut to 27-20 at the half, but when Jadyn Montoya hit an off-balance dagger as the third quarter ended, the game was tied 31-31 heading into the fourth quarter. 

Valencia’s Jaiden Montgomery fought through some contact and scored 24 points in the Jaguars’ overtime victory against Lovington in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.

From there, fans held their breath, with neither team grabbing an advantage. Jaiden Montgomery kept the Jaguars in it, with free throws, a steal and a basket plus a midrange jumper to put Valencia up 43-40 with less than two minutes to go.    

That’s when the lights went out, causing a more than 10-minute delay.  

“I was very confused,” said Montgomery. “I didn’t know what was happening. Yeah, it was a mess.”    

Montgomery credited the coaching staff with keeping the players focused.   

“The shirts say it all, ‘Control the controllable,’” said coach Raymond Montoya about the motto placed on team shirts.     

When the lights came back on, both teams were composed, with Lovington converting free throws to force overtime.  

Free throws by Montgomery, who had 24 points, and Montoya, put VHS up by five points, helping secure a 55-52 victory.  

“It was definitely an intense game,” Montgomery said. “They came out ready to play but, I think, we held our composure very well and pulled it off.”    

 Los Lunas Tigers (boys)  

Seventh seeded Los Lunas took on No. 2 Organ Mountain Wednesday in the boys 5A state quarterfinals at the Pit. The contest came after the print deadline for the News-Bulletin. Check out the game recap on 

The Tigers reached the quarterfinals with an overtime victory Saturday over No. 10 Alamogordo, a game that could be described as both ugly and pretty.   

The “ugly” was 31 fouls charged to visiting Alamogordo, including five technical fouls, four assessed to players and one to head coach Jeremy Knee.   

The “pretty” was a series of outstanding individual performances by players on both teams.     

For LLHS, senior point guard Rex Kinsey opened the game with a three-pointer and was a calming influence during the team’s shaky first half, especially with Jalin Holland picking up three fouls. Los Lunas trailed 27-25 at the break.     

AHS dealt with foul trouble up and down the roster. In one third quarter sequence, Los Lunas shot six straight free throws at one time, two on a personal foul, four on two technical fouls. That was followed by a three-pointer from Isaiah Juarez to build the LLHS led to 40-31.    

However, Alamogordo showed plenty of grit. When Jason Warren, who had 16 points, scored on a three-point play, AHS took a 42-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.     

Isaiah Juarez of Los Lunas makes a three pointer to help send the game against Alamogordo into overtime, eventually won by LLHS.

“They fought like hell,” said LLHS coach Travis Julian. “That’s a talented group of kids over there.”    

Alamogordo maintained the lead until Juarez nailed a three from the corner with just over a minute to play in regulation, sending the game into overtime.   

“It was a huge shot,” Julian said. “He’s come so far.”    

With Los Lunas up 56-55, Holland drove hard to the basket, rolled the shot in off the glass and was fouled. From there, LLHS posted a 61-55 victory.    

“It was chaotic, a chaotic game,” is how Holland described it. “It really came down to composure and sticking together with your team.”   

Holland had an off-shooting night but still led Los Lunas with 20 points.     

“Whenever you get in a game like that, you lean on your experience,” said Julian, who praised seniors Juarez and Kinsey. “I thought Rex was a rock tonight. It was a physical, in-your-face game. Both teams took their blows, took their hits. You just had to persevere.”    

 Los Lunas Tigers (girls) 

The season came to an end for the Los Lunas girls’ Friday after a 75-45 loss at No. 3 Farmington in an opening round game of the 5A basketball tournament.   

The Tigers, seeded 14th, only trailed 14-13 after the first quarter, but LLHS coach Manny Vigil said the Scorpions went on scoring spurts in each quarter after that.   

While Farmington (25-4) was red hot, Los Lunas (19-11) had trouble putting the ball in the basket, although eighth-grader Kayla Finley contributed 16 points and nine rebounds.    

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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.