ALBUQUERQUE — Los Lunas is headed to the final round of the NMAA State Basketball Tournament after a 77-60 victory over Del Norte on Thursday night.
“This means a lot,” said head coach Travis Julian. “It’s been our goal this year to get over that bar and get back (to the state championship).”
Los Lunas (27-3, 8-0) was hit with a road block initially. The 12-seeded Del Norte built an early run, outscoring the Tigers 18-14 in the first quarter.
But the Knights’ lead didn’t last long. Senior Zanen Zeller went off, dropping 14 points in the second quarter alone. When Del Norte tried to contain Zeller, he showcased his passing ability. By the end of the game, the Biola University commit had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists — just one shy of a triple-double.
“We knew (Del Norte) was going to come out strong,” said Zeller. “Credit to the team for hitting shots. It shows how much we’ve grown.”
The Tigers built on that lead in the second half, shooting 89 percent from the field in the final 16 minutes. Seniors AJ Garcia and Joe Dominguez chipped in with 18 points a piece as the Tigers cruised to final round.
“That’s a testament to these guys breaking (Del Norte’s) pressure,” said Julian.
The last time Los Lunas played for a state title was in 2014. Julian was in his second year as the head coach of the Tigers, and Zeller was an eighth-grader. They lost that game 56-41 to Roswell. The Tigers hope for a different outcome when they face Valley — a team who they beat earlier this season.
“May the best team win Saturday,” said Julian. “I wish it was (Friday), because we’re ready to go.”
Tip off for the 2019 NMAA State Title will be at The Pit at 4 p.m., Saturday.