Los Lunas fought off a spirited effort from county rival Valencia to post a 62-50 victory Tuesday in boys basketball at the Jaguars home gym.
The Tigers’ built a 22-point lead but the Jags’ clawed to within seven in the fourth quarter.
LLHS, ranked fourth in 5A, seemed well on the way to another comfortable win.
The Tigers only led 13-11 after the first quarter, but then Jalin Holland began to dominate.
Holland made a trio of three pointers to give Los Lunas a 31-16 lead at the half.
“He’s a special player,” Valencia coach Jesse Hathoot said of Holland. “He’s the best player in the state.”
Holland had 20 points at the break, but just five after the half.
Los Lunas increased its lead to 43-21 on consecutive treys by four different players. The margin heading into the final eight minutes was 45-28.
That’s when 4A Valencia tightened up the defense, Holland got into foul trouble, and the Jaguars started to knock down shots.
Fernando Enriquez and Mariano Perea hit three pointers, and when Damian Estrada connected on two free throws, the deficit was 50-43 with less than four minutes left.
“At times we get stubborn and start forcing things,” LLHS coach Travis Julian said. “That’s when we let teams back in the game.”
But the Tigers would not break. Galeio Griego scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and ended a 14-0 Valencia run to help secure the victory.
“It was really good to see him be aggressive offensively,” Julian said.
Estrada led VHS with 15 points. Ali Abdullah added 12.
LLHS is now 7-1. Valencia drops to 5-7.
Hathoot said he was proud of the Jaguars.
“They kept competing, grinding out possessions,” Hathoot said. “One possession after another. But that start kind of did us in.”
Hathoot was an assistant under Julian for nine years at LLHS.
“Personally, I hate this game,” Julian said. “You’re playing against a kid who came up with me and my coaching staff.”
Both schools return to the court on Tuesday, Dec. 27, in the Las Cruces Hoopla tournament.
Also Tuesday, the Valencia girls had their nine-game winning streak snapped after a 50-38 loss to Los Alamos.
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.