Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Despite being hounded by defenders, Jalin Holland, No. 11, scored 36 points Tuesday in Los Lunas’ loss to Cleveland.

Los Lunas

Fans watching the boys’ basketball game Tuesday between Cleveland and Los Lunas may have questioned if it really was early December or somehow skipped ahead to March?

The Storm and Tigers seemed in late-season form, with Cleveland posting a 67-61 victory that went down to the final seconds.

“That was a fun game,” said Cleveland coach Zach Cole. “It was like a state playoff type of atmosphere.”

From the beginning, the large crowd in the LLHS gymnasium was into it, perhaps anticipating something special between two of the top-ranked teams in 5A. Two first-team all-state guards, junior Jalin Holland, of Los Lunas, and senior Daniel Steverson, of Cleveland, more than delivered.

Holland finished with 36 points, while Severson had a career high 41 points. At the free throw line, the two combined for a stunning 22 for 22.

Los Lunas (1-1) had the edge to start, and with a three-pointer from Isaiah Aragon, the Tigers led 12-4 four minutes into the contest. The Storm (2-0) refocused after a timeout, and when a three point try by Severson hit the front of the rim and bounced in. CHS trailed 17-16 after the first quarter.

Two free throws by Holland gave the Tigers a nine point lead, but Steverson scored four straight points and the LLHS shrunk to 34-29 at the half.

“It was pretty back and forth,” Holland said about the fast pace. “Our guys were hitting a lot of open shots.”

Holland made a trio of three-pointers in the first half, totaling 17 points. Steverson had a pair of treys and 18 points at the break.

Los Lunas’ lead climbed back to eight points on a Holland deep three from the corner with a hand in his face, while Logan Tafoya helped with back to back buckets. Soon, however, the momentum swung Cleveland’s way, thanks to a hounding defense that forced several key turnovers, which Holland called “woopsies.”

Late in the third quarter, Noah Padilla’s steal led to a floater at the buzzer that put Cleveland in front 52-51.

Los Lunas had a difficult time controlling Daniel Steverson, No. 5, who scored 41 points Tuesday during Cleveland’s 67-61 victory.

Both teams held the lead in the fourth quarter, but Steverson found space inside the lane to put CHS in front for good, 63-61 with two minutes left. Cleveland outscored Los Lunas 16 to 9 in the final period, with Steverson scoring all but two of those points.

After Holland missed a three-pointer, Ajay Vigil scored on a driving layup, and Cleveland secured the six-point victory.

“On offense, maybe we were not moving the ball enough,” Holland said about the second half. “It takes four quarters.”

Holland scored 36 points despite Cleveland rotating players to guard him.

“We just said we were going to mix it up and throw different guys at him,” Cole said. “You can’t really stop Holland. He’s so darn good.”

So is Steverson, who admitted being motivated by playing his friend Holland.

“It always brings that energy to the game that you don’t really get playing against strangers,” Steverson said.

Padilla added 11 points for the Storm, while Tafoya chipped in 14 points for the Tigers.

Los Lunas returns to action Thursday against Alamogordo to start a tournament in Artesia.

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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.